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US life expectancy has biggest fall since WW2

Jan 28, 2020
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Chris Duncan, whose 75 year old mother Constance died from Covid, seen at September memorial among small US flags to commemorate the Covid dead

Life expectancy in the United States declined by a year-and-a-half during 2020, according to health officials.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data showed the average US lifespan dropped from 78.8 years in 2019 to 77.3 years in 2020.
Researchers said the pandemic was mostly to blame for the decline, with record-high drug deaths also noted as a contributing factor.
The data comes amid a resurgence of Covid-19 cases across the country.
Hospital rates are also on the rise with daily deaths now almost 50% higher than last week, according to officials.
More than 600,000 Americans have died so far during the coronavirus pandemic.

The 2020 drop is the sharpest annual decline seen since World War Two.
The CDC's National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) report said the overall average age of 77.3 years was the lowest seen since 2003.
The report primarily attributes the decline to increased deaths due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
It names unintentional injuries, largely driven by drug overdose deaths, as the second largest contributing factor.
Officials said last week that drug overdoses had risen almost 30% in 2020 - reaching a record high of more than 93,000.

media captionThe epidemic within the pandemic
The report, released on Tuesday, also noted that racial and ethnic disparities in life expectancy had grown during the pandemic.

Hispanic men saw the sharpest decline - with 3.7 years knocked off their average life expectancy within the year alone.
Black American men also saw a 3.3-year drop, down to an average of just 68 years.
Black and Hispanic women also saw sharper declines than both white men and white women.
"It is impossible to look at these findings and not see a reflection of the systemic racism in the US," Lesley Curtis, chair of the Department of Population Health Sciences at Duke University School of Medicine, told NPR.
"The range of factors that play into this include income inequality, the social safety net, as well as racial inequality and access to health care," she added.



Nov 4, 2011
U.S. Life Expectancy Plunged in 2020, Especially for Black and Hispanic Americans
The 18-month drop, the steepest decline since World War II, was fueled by the coronavirus pandemic.

By Julie Bosman, Sophie Kasakove and Daniel Victor
July 21, 2021

New federal data draws one of the starkest illustrations to date of how the coronavirus pandemic has disproportionately affected Hispanic and Black Americans, showing that they suffered a far steeper drop in life expectancy in 2020 than white Americans.

Overall, life expectancy in the United States fell by a year and a half, a federal report said on Wednesday, a decline largely attributed to the pandemic that has killed more than 600,000 Americans.

It was the steepest decline in the United States since World War II.

From 2019 to 2020, Hispanic people experienced the greatest drop in life expectancy — three years — and Black Americans saw a decrease of 2.9 years. White people experienced the smallest decline, of 1.2 years.

The coronavirus “uncovered the deep racial and ethnic inequities in access to health, and I don’t think that we’ve ever overcome them,” said Dr. Mary T. Bassett, a former New York City health commissioner and professor of health and human rights at Harvard University, who characterized the findings as devastating but unsurprising. “To think that we’ll just bounce back from them seems a bit wishful thinking.”

Life expectancy numbers provide only a snapshot in time of the general health of a population: If American children born today spent their entire lives under the conditions of 2020, they would live an average of 77.3 years, down from 78.8 in 2019.

The last time life expectancy was so low was in 2003, according to the National Center for Health Statistics, the agency that released the figures and a part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Racial and ethnic disparities have persisted throughout the pandemic, a reflection of many factors, including the differences in overall health and available health care between white, Hispanic and Black people in the United States. Black and Hispanic Americans were more likely to be employed in risky, public-facing jobs during the pandemic — bus drivers, restaurant cooks, sanitation workers — rather than working on laptops from the relative safety of their homes.

They also more commonly depend on public transportation, risking coronavirus exposure, or live in multigenerational homes and in tighter conditions that are more conducive to spreading the virus.

The precipitous drop in 2020, caused largely by Covid-19, is not likely to be permanent. In 1918, the flu pandemic wiped 11.8 years from Americans’ life expectancy, and the number fully rebounded the following year. But Elizabeth Arias, one of the researchers who produced the report, said life expectancy was not likely to bounce back to prepandemic levels anytime soon.
Returning the life expectancy numbers to those of 2019 would require having “no more excess death because of Covid, and that’s already not possible in 2021,” Dr. Arias said.

Beyond that, she said, the effects of the pandemic on life expectancy, especially for Black and Latino people, could linger for years. (The report noted changes in life expectancy only for white, Hispanic and Black Americans.)

“If it was just the pandemic and we were able to take control of that and reduce the numbers of excess deaths, they may be able to gain some of the loss,” Dr. Arias said. But additional deaths may emerge as a result of people missing regular doctor visits for other health conditions during the pandemic.

“We may be seeing the indirect effects of the pandemic for some time to come,” she said.
Americans whose relatives and friends died in the pandemic saw their own painful losses reflected in the report.
Denise Chandler, a mother of eight who lives in Detroit and lost both her husband and father to the coronavirus last year, is now the head of one of the many Black families who have suffered greatly from the pandemic.

“I see a lot of fatherless children now, and a lot of wives without their husbands,” she said on Wednesday. Ms. Chandler quit work for most of a year to help her children recover from their loss and, even now, has many days when they barely let her out the door — because they are fearful she will get sick and die, too.

Ms. Chandler points to what she described as substandard care at the hospital in their neighborhood where her husband, Richard, who died at 35, was treated for Covid-19, a facility that serves many patients in Detroit’s African American community.

“If he was white, he wouldn’t have been at that hospital,” she said.

The predominantly Latino, working-class city of Chelsea, just north of Boston, was among the areas of Massachusetts hardest hit by the coronavirus.

Gladys Vega, executive director of a community organization called La Colaborativa, said the death rate from Covid-19 had been exacerbated by lack of access to health care: Many people in Chelsea are undocumented, and they feared that going to a hospital or applying for health insurance could result in deportation.

“That creates all these other dilemmas in their health conditions that make everything worse,” Ms. Vega said. The community lost “elders, young people, people that we never thought would be gone,” she said.

The statistics in the report released on Wednesday laid bare the staggering toll of the pandemic, which has, at times, pushed the health system to its limits.

Measuring life expectancy is not intended to precisely predict actual life spans; rather, it is a measure of a population’s health, revealing either societywide distress or advancement. The sheer magnitude of the drop in 2020 wiped away decades of progress.

In recent decades, life expectancy had steadily risen in the United States — until 2014, when an opioid epidemic took hold and caused the kind of decline rarely seen in developed countries. The decline flattened in 2018 and 2019.

The pandemic appears to have amplified the opioid crisis. More than 40 states have recorded increases in opioid-related deaths since the pandemic began, according to the American Medical Association.

Even if deaths from Covid-19 markedly decline in 2021, the economic and social effects will linger, especially among racial groups that were disproportionately affected, researchers have noted.

Though there have long been racial and ethnic disparities in life expectancy, the gaps had been narrowing for decades. In 1993, white Americans were expected to live 7.1 years longer than Black Americans, but the gap had been winnowed to 4.1 years in 2019.

Covid-19 did away with much of that progress: White Americans are now expected to live 5.8 years longer.

Hispanic Americans had a life expectancy that was three years longer than that of white Americans in 2019, but that gap decreased to 1.2 years in 2020.

As before, there remains a gender gap. Women in the United States were expected to live 80.2 years in the new figures, down from 81.4 in 2019, while men were expected to live 74.5 years, down from 76.3.

While the 1.5-year decline was caused mostly by the pandemic, making up 74 percent of the negative contribution, there were also smaller rises in unintentional injuries, chronic liver disease and cirrhosis, homicide and diabetes.


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