US Life Expectancy Drops Again In 'Historic' Decline

By Jason Hall

August 31, 2022

Senior man celebrating alone his birthday
Photo: Getty Images

Life expectancy in the United States once again another historic drop in 2021, following a significant hit in 2020, brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Provisional data published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that life expectancy at birth fell to 76.1 years in 2021, which is the lowest projected age among Americans since 1996, CNN reports.

The life expectancy at birth also dropped by more than two and a half years since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, marking the biggest two-year decline in a century, with the coronavirus serving as the driving factor.

CDC chief mortality statistician Bob Anderson reported that the U.S. had a higher death rate in 2021 than 2020, so the one-year life expectancy drop wasn't considered surprising.

The data also showed that a record 109,000 deaths were linked to drug overdose, which was the second-leading cause of the decline in life expectancy.

“It is distressing to see a continuing negative impact of drug overdose on the life expectancy of Americans. These deaths often occur in young adults and therefore represent a tragically high number of years of life lost and devastating impact on individuals, families, and communities," Dr. Nora Volkow said via CNN. “We have the science and the tools available to help us reverse this trend and reduce the number of overdose deaths in this country. But these tools are not being used effectively.”

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