US Life Expectancy Plummets to Lowest Number Since 1996 Due in Part to COVID-19 and Drug Overdose Deaths

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Life expectancy for the U.S. population in 2021 was 76.4 years, the lowest since 1996, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control.

Life expectancy in the United States decreased for the second straight year, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control's National Center for Health Statistics.

The average American is now living to the age of 76.4 years, down from 77 years the previous year.

COVID-19 and death from drug overdoses played a big part in the decline in life expectancy, which the CDC reports is now at it lowest since 1996.

Both men and women saw a decline in life expectancies, with men dropping from 74.2 years in 2020 to 73.5, and women falling to 79.3 years from 79.9. This increased the difference in life expectancy between men and women to 5.8 years.

The CDC report finds that the three leading causes of death remain the same as last year, with heart disease claiming the most lives followed by cancer and COVID-19.

Just over 20% of the 3,383,729 deaths in 2021 were due to heart disease, a figure that is nearly identical from the previous year. 

The number of deaths from COVID-19 saw the biggest shift from the previous year, jumping from 350,831 deaths to 416,893 deaths.

Accidents is the other cause of death that saw a significant increase from the previous year. The fourth leading cause of death accounted for 224,935 deaths in 2021, up from 200,955 deaths the previous year.

Overdose deaths accounted for over a third of accidental deaths in 2021, and have continued to increase at a rapid rate. The number of overdose deaths have now risen five-fold over the past two decades according to a separate CDC report.

The opioid crisis continues to loom large in these findings. The rate of heroin overdoses resulting in death decreased 32% from the previous year, but at the same time overdoses from synthetic opioids increased 22%. 

Men continue to account for more overdose deaths than women. The rate for males increased from 39.5 to 45.1 from the previous year, and the rate for females increased from 17.1 to 19.6

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