US life expectancy drops by steepest level since Second World War

US life expectancy drops by steepest level since Second World War
Inequalities exposed by Covid create three year fall for Black and Hispanic Americans

Life expectancy in the United States has fallen more steeply than at any point since the Second World War, with minorities hit hardest.

Figures first reported by The New York Times on Wednesday from the National Centre for Health Statistics’s (NCHS) revealed that life expectancy fell by almost a year and a half, or 15 months, for all Americans in 2020.

It would mean that a child born today could be expected to live until the age of 77.3, compared to 78.8 years in 2019. The fall is thought to be the result of Covid, which has exposed inequalities across a range of issues.

The figures from NCHS, a division of the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), also showed that minorities were hit hardest by the fall in life expectancy in 2020, with Black and Hispanic individuals worst off.

For Black Americans, life expectancy decreased by 2.9 years, and for Hispanic Americans, a fall of three years was experienced last year, which was the worst of all groups. White Americans, meanwhile, were better off – with a decrease of 1.2 years.

Last year, Covid appeared to expose existing inequalities in employment and health coverage among Americans, with Black individuals 1.1 times more likely to get infected by Covid, and Hispanic Americans 1.9 times more likely, according to recent CDC figures.

The chance of death from catching Covid also remains at a rate between two and 2.3 times higher than White Americans, who according to the report’s author, Elizabeth Arias, were likely to return to 2019 levels of life expectancy before minority groups.

“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 told The Times, but that for minorities, “we may be seeing the indirect effects of the pandemic for some time to come”.

The NCHS’s report also revealed a decrease of 1.8 years in life expectancy among men, and 1.2 years for women, among all Americans.


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