A new study estimates that life expectancy in the U.S. decreased by nearly two years between 2018 and 2020, largely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. And the declines were most pronounced among minority groups, including Black and Hispanic people.
In 2018, average life expectancy in the U.S. was about 79 years (78.7). It declined to about 77 years (76.9) by the end of 2020, according to a new study published in the British Medical Journal.
“We have not seen a decrease like this since World War II. It’s a horrific decrease in life expectancy,” said Steven Woolf of the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine and an author of the study released on Wednesday. (The study is based on data from the National Center for Health Statistics and includes simulated estimates for 2020.)
Beyond the more than 600,000 deaths in the U.S. directly from the coronavirus, other factors play into the decreased longevity, including “disruptions in health care, disruptions in chronic disease management, and behavioral health crisis, where people struggling with addiction disorders or depression might not have gotten the help that they needed,” Woolf said.
The lack of access to care and other pandemic-related disruptions hit some Americans much harder than others. And it’s been well documented that the death rate for Black Americans was twice as high compared with white Americans.
The disparity is reflected in the new longevity estimates. “African Americans saw their life expectancy decrease by 3.3 years and Hispanic Americans saw their life expectancy decrease by 3.9 years,” Woolf noted.