Life expectancy in the US was down by a year in the first half of 2020, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics said in a report published Thursday. According to experts, Covid-19 was a significant factor contributing to the decline.
The CDC report showed that life expectancy for the entire US population fell to 77.8 years, similar to the 2006 levels.
Along with life expectancy changes widening racial and ethnic inequities were also seen.
Covid-19 Pandemic Hit Life Expectancy In US By A Year: CDC
Life expectancy for non-Hispanic Black people in the US was down about three times what it did for non-Hispanic White people compared to 2019. It was down twice as much for Hispanic people, by 1.9 years.
Disparities in life-expectancy between White people and Black people had been narrowing in recent years, but with the latest figures some of that progress appeared to have reversed.
Life expectancy had been rising slowly over the past 40 years, but it had rarely declined. Between 2014 and 2017 which was a peak period of the opioid epidemic life expectancy fell a third of a year, which itself was significant.
While life-expectancy estimates prior to 1980 had been less consistently measured, according to experts who CNN spoke with, estimates for drops in life expectancy after World War II ranged from less than a year to three years.
The pandemic had taken a huge toll on the US population with around 490,000 people having lost their lives to the disease. According to the CDC’s estimates excess deaths in 2020 could be even higher.
CNN quoted Eileen Crimmins, a professor at the University of Southern California as saying that a year of life expectancy lost did not really give one a true sense of how serious it had been. She added, the loss amounted to millions of life years. She added, Covid was on track to cause more deaths than cancer or heart disease, and that was important.
According to experts, with most deaths due to Covid-19 seen among older adults, only a small effect on overall life expectancy would have been expected.
However, according to Theresa Andrasfay, a researcher at the University of Southern California with published work on the potential impact of Covid-19 on life expectancy, while deaths among younger adults might be less common, the numbers were still substantial.
She told CNN that those deaths had a significant effect on life expectancy due to their higher contribution to foregone years of life.
Among Black and Hispanic people, disparities in years lost were in line with the disproportionate effect Covid-19 had had on communities of color. The latest data from the CDC showed that Hispanic and non-Hispanic Black people were both about twice as likely to die of Covid-19 than non-Hispanic White people.
CNN quoted Andrasfay as saying, at the beginning of the pandemic, it might have been thought that the virus affected everyone equally. She added there was awareness of these longstanding health disparities, but this really drove home how the Black and Latino communities were disproportionately affected.
The new life-expectancy estimates from the CDC marked the first time that the agency had published these figures using provisional data that came from death certificates that were received and processed for the first half of 2020.
Because the report is based on recorded deaths between January and June, the report noted that the estimates, did not reflect the entirety of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, or other changes in causes of death.
Earlier on in the pandemic certain areas were impacted more than others, and timely reporting of deaths varied by jurisdiction.