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CDC: US Life Expectancy Falls for Second Straight Year, Hits 25-Year Low

CC BY 2.0 / Raed Mansour / US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) sign outside its Atlanta, Georgia, headquarters
US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) sign outside its Atlanta, Georgia, headquarters - Sputnik International, 1920, 23.12.2022
The report is based on data collected on American death certificates tracked by the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics and affirms the declining rates from Augusta when they revealed their preliminary data for the study. According to the CDC, the life expectancy for 2021 is now the worst two-year decline on record since 1923.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a new report on Thursday revealing the shocking discovery that the average life expectancy for Americans has dropped for the second consecutive year and is the lowest it has ever been since 1996. Since COVID-19 was first detected in 2019, life expectancy has fallen by 2.7 years as of last year.
Those born in the US in 2021 are now expected to only live until they are 76.4 years old, which is down from a peak of 78.8 years in 2019. That is a significant drop considering the average life expectancy statistical change to range somewhere between 0.1 and 0.2 years.
"The declines in life expectancy since 2019 are largely driven by the pandemic," the agency explained 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."
One in eight deaths for 2021 were caused by COVID-19, which is an increase from one in 10 deaths in 2020.
According to Kenneth Kochanek, a co-author of the report, life expectancy in the US has been increasing for decades until COVID-19 hit the world in January of 2020. But the US, which already had a lower life expectancy when compared to other countries, still continues to rank the lowest among countries with large economies.
“Then this one disease comes along and just wipes everything out…" Kochanek explains. "I’ve never seen anything with this much of an impact in a short period of time.”
Heart disease remained the leading cause of death among Americans, followed by cancer. COVID-19 was the third leading cause of death and these three causes made up half of the deaths for 2021.
Another factor which contributed to the life expectancy decline was “unintentional injuries”; drug overdoses made up a third of the deaths in this category. For the year of 2021: 106,999 drug overdose deaths occurred which is equivalent to 32.4 people per 100,000 people.
Drug overdoses, which have been propelled by the opioid epidemic, are now five times greater than they were two decades ago and contributed to the life expectancy decline by 15.9%.
"These data are very tragic but not surprising," said Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. "The pandemic had a magnifying effect on an already-devastating overdose crisis, and exacerbated many of the stressors in society that make people more vulnerable to taking drugs."
"We also know that substance use is more dangerous than it has ever been, as fentanyl has continued to permeate the illicit drug supply, increasing the risk for overdoses among both people with substance use disorders as well as those who use drugs occasionally," Volkow added.
While the death rate changes outlined in the CDC's report differed among demographics, white people saw a significant jump in their death rates (an increase of 7%) across both genders between 2020 and 2021. COVID-19 was the leading cause in the decline of life expectancy among white people in 2021 and contributed to 54.1% of their life expectancy decline last year.
Meanwhile, women on average are living about six years longer than men and are expected to live past 79 years old. The CDC also found that death rates for Hispanic people and Black men decreased. Asian Americans also saw the smallest decline in life expectancy last year among any race, with cancer making up their leading cause of death.
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