U.S. Life Expectancy Estimates Have Fallen to the Worst Levels Since 1996: CDC Report

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A recently released report from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention shows that life expectancy rates for U.S. adults have dropped since 1996, with different demographics having different leading causes of death.

Estimates for American life expectancy has fallen to the worst levels since 1996, according to estimates in a new federal report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics.

This makes the second year in a row of lowering life expectancy estimates following the beginning of COVID-19, according to CBS News.

Health officials say the drop in life expectancy from 2019 to 2021 — falling by almost 3 years to right over an estimate of 76 – is now the country's worst two-year decline on record since 1923, according to the provisional estimates.

"The declines in life expectancy since 2019 are largely driven by the pandemic," the agency said in a news release. 

"COVID-19 deaths contributed to nearly three-fourths, or 74%, of the decline from 2019 to 2020, and 50% of the decline from 2020 to 2021." 

To date, ​​over one million Americans have COVID-19 listed as the cause on their death certificates, according to the latest data from the agency.

According to the report, the second biggest cause of death was "unintentional injuries." This made up almost 16 percent of the decline and was "largely driven by drug overdose.”

The report noted that the impact of these causes varied widely among demographic groups. COVID-19 was a major player for white, Black, and Native demographic groups:

  • Among white Americans in 2021, the virus resulted in a 54.1% drop
  • The virus was responsible for 35% of the life expectancy decline in Black Americans
  • 21.4% of the decline in American Indian and Alaska Native people was due to the virus
  • <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/pressroom/nchs_press_releases/2021/202107.htm" rel="" target="_blank">According to the CDC</a>, Hispanic Americans saw the worst drop in life expectancy of any group, with 90% of their decline blamed on COVID-19 during the first year
  • Cancer drove 21.4% of the life expectancy decline of Asian Americans in 2021

According to the report, the difference in life expectancy between men and women widened from 5.7 to 5.9 years in 2021. This gap by natal sex had fallen to just 4.8 years in 2010.

The estimates offer one of the earliest looks into the impact of the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic on American life expectancy, according to the report. 

Last week, the CDC released final estimates broken down by state for 2020. 

These estimates showed life expectancy in the first year of the pandemic drop in every state and the District of Columbia, and more detailed figures and breakdowns for 2021 are expected over the coming months, according to the CDC.

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