U.S. life expectancy fell by a full year in the first half of 2020, according to a report released Thursday by the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Experts say COVID-19 was a significant contributing factor to the decline in life expectancy.
Life expectancy for Americans fell to 77.8 years, the 2006 rate, CDC data show. Changes in life expectancy also increase racial and ethnic disparities. Compared to 2019, life expectancy for African Americans in the U.S. has fallen by about 2.7 years compared to the rate for whites. Hispanics have seen the rate drop by half, by 1.9 years.
Over the past 40 years, life expectancy in the U.S. has increased slowly but rarely declined. Between 2014 and 2017, the peak year of the opioid epidemic, life expectancy fell by a third of a year, which was significant in itself.
The pandemic took a huge toll on the U.S. population. About 490,000 people died from the coronavirus, and the CDC estimates that excess mortality in 2020 will be even higher after reassessment of the data.