US life expectancy drops a year and a half by 2020, says CDC

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Life expectancy in USA fell a year and a half in 2020, to 77.3 years, the lowest level since 2003, mainly due to deaths caused by the pandemic of Covid-19, said a US health agency on Wednesday.

It’s the biggest drop in a year since World War II, when life expectancy dropped 2.9 years between 1942 and 1943, said the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“Life expectancy has been increasing gradually every year for the past decade,” Elizabeth Arias, a CDC researcher who worked on the report, told Reuters. “The drop between 2019 and 2020 was so big that it took us to 2003 levels. We kind of lost a decade.”

Deaths by Covid-19 contributed to nearly three quarters, or 74%, of the fall, and drug overdoses were also a big factor, the CDC said.

The most recent CDC report is based on provisional mortality data from January to December 2020.

Racial, ethnic and gender disparities worsened over the period, according to the report. Life expectancy for black people dropped 2.9 years to 71.8 in 2020, the lowest level since 2000. Life expectancy for Hispanic men fell 3.7 years to 75.3, the biggest drop in any group.

The disparity in life expectancy between men and women also increased in 2020, with women now living 80.2 years, or 5.7 years longer than men — six months longer than was seen in 2019.