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COVID-19 drives U.S. life expectancy to fall nearly a year, lowest in decades

life expectancy
Posted at 3:27 PM, Aug 31, 2022

DETROIT (WXYZ) — This is America’s worst two-year decline in life expectancy since 1923. In 2019, the average age most Americans could expect to live to was nearly 79. But now, new CDC data shows life expectancy at birth fell to 76.1 years. And, COVID was the driving factor. From 2020 to 2021, deaths from the coronavirus contributed to half of the decline. And in 2021, the death rate due to COVID was actually higher than in 2020.

The second-leading cause of life expectancy decline was accidental deaths. Unfortunately, those were largely driven by drug overdose deaths, taking the lives of roughly 109,000 people. Sadly, that was also a record high in 2021. Other contributors that have shortened America’s average life span were heart disease, suicide, and chronic liver disease.

In 2021, life expectancy fell more among men than among women. According to CDC data, women can expect to live 79.1 years whereas men can expect to live 73.2 years. That’s nearly a six-year gap.

CDC data also highlighted life expectancy trends by race and ethnicity. The most shocking data involves Native Americans and Alaska Natives. Their life expectancy was shortened by four years in 2020. And, Native American men, in particular, had the lowest life expectancy than any other group – with the average age now at 61.5 years.

The second biggest decline in life expectancy was among Caucasians. COVID-19 contributed to that group's drop more than any other racial or ethnic group. Which was surpassing because, at one point in time, white people were the most vaccinated group against the coronavirus. Now, they lag behind Black, Hispanic and Asian populations.

You might be wondering who lives the longest. That currently is Asian Americans. Asian women on average live for 85.6 years and men for 81.2 years.

What can people do overall to live long? First of all, make sure you’re updated on COVID-19 vaccines. Vaccination is the best way to protect against severe disease and death. Also, don’t smoke, be physically active every day, eat healthy foods and maintain a healthy weight and body shape. And, be sure to see your family doctor and discuss any medications or lifestyle changes if you have any health conditions like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.