- Average life expectancy in the US fell from 78.8 to 77.8 years in the first half of 2020, per the CDC.
- The data is based on deaths from various causes, but shows the toll the COVID-19 pandemic has taken.
- Black and Hispanic Americans saw larger drops than white Americans, the CDC said.
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The life expectancy of the average American fell by one year in the first few months of 2020 – the most dramatic drop since World War II – showing the toll of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The life expectancy fell to 77.8 years from 78.8 in the same period in 2019, the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention said in a Thursday report.
“This is a huge decline,” Robert Anderson, who monitors life expectancy for the CDC, told the Associated Press. “You have to go back to World War II, the 1940s, to find a decline like this.”
The report is based on data collected on deaths that occurred during the first six months of 2020, and includes deaths from COVID-19 and other causes of deaths, such as drug overdoses, the CDC said. Nonetheless, the data shows the deadly toll the pandemic has taken on Americans.
When broken down, the data highlighted the “worsening of racial and ethnic mortality disparities” in the US, the CDC said. Here’s what it found:
- The life expectancy of non-Hispanic Black Americans dropped an average 2.7 years, from 74.7 years to 72 years.
- The average life expectancy of a Black male American dropped by three years.
- The life expectancy of the Hispanic population dropped 1.9 years, from 81.8 years to 79.9 years.
- The life expectancy of white Americans dropped 0.8 years.
“Those are very large disparities, and it reflects that the pandemic affected these two minority groups much more than the majority population,” Elizabeth Arias, a lead author of the paper, told The Washington Post. “They experienced the bulk of the mortality.”
During the pandemic, Black and Hispanic communities have been far harder hit on average than white communities.
For example, between February and July 2020, Black people aged between 35 and 44 saw death rates nine times higher than white people in the same age bracket, Dr. Mary T. Bassett, a professor of health and human rights at Harvard University, told The New York Times.
The CDC report added that the life expectancy of men across all ethnic groups declined slightly more than that of women, dropping by 1.2 years and 0.9 years respectively.
Life expectancies had been rising for all ethnic groups in the past decade. Between 2018 and 2019, the average life expectancy rose by 0.1 year, CDC data shows.
The life expectancy of the average American also took a hit the last time the country experienced a pandemic.
Between 1917 to 1918, amid the Spanish Flu pandemic, the average life span of an American dropped 11.8 years to 39 years, Arias told The New York Times.
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