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Due to Covid and Drug Overdoses, the Already Declining U.S. Life Expectancy Decreased Even More in 2021
According to recent government data, the average life expectancy for Americans born in 2021 was just under 76 years and 5 months, which is almost a full year less than it was in 2020. It was the lowest such number since 1996 and came after an almost ten-year period of standstill in the growth of human lifespans.
The average life expectancy has decreased for the second year in a row, according to data provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday. This hasn’t happened in more than a century. That pattern has been significantly influenced by the pandemic.
Deaths from COVID-19 rose from 350,831 in 2020 to 416,893 in 2021. This made the new illness continue to rank behind heart disease (695,547 fatalities) and cancer as the third-leading cause of death in the United States (605,213 deaths).
However, the CDC made it plain that the coronavirus was not the only factor harming Americans’ ability to live long lives. According to a separate estimate released on Thursday by the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics, there were 106,699 drug overdose deaths in the country in 2021.
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That represents a sharp increase from 2020 when fatal overdoses had already reached a record high of 91,799. While deaths from cocaine and methamphetamine increased in 2021, synthetic opioids like fentanyl were responsible for the sharpest increase in overdose deaths (22%).
According to the CDC, the latest statistics show that drug-related mortality has increased fivefold over the past 20 years. The age-adjusted mortality rate for Americans in 2017 was 879.7 deaths per 100,000 people, up 5.3% from 2020 when deaths from all causes are included.
CDC: Drug overdose deaths nationwide are declining after reaching record highs in 2021 (WTVF Nashville, TN). The death rates among Black and Latino men, as well as men and women who identify as American Indian or Alaska Native, remained the highest for every age category. In contrast to white Americans, Black and Latino communities’ health significantly improved in 2021.
When age was taken into account, researchers discovered that white women and men had a higher mortality risk in 2021 than they did in 2020. Contrarily, death rates for women in both groups were stable last year, while Black and Latino’s men were less likely to pass away than they were the year before.
The apparent reversal of death rates between white Americans and communities of color, according to Dr. Stephen Woolf, a health status researcher at Virginia Commonwealth University, is somewhat mysterious. But according to Woolf, who was not involved in the CDC findings, “there’s an obvious idea that’s sort of the elephant in the room.”
Initial COVID- Latino and American Indian/Alaska Native communities had the highest 19 death rates, which appears to have motivated them to get immunized in 2021, according to Woolf. But “many white populations either believed they were at less risk or had political objections to getting vaccinated or wearing masks,” according to the study.
A difference in vaccination rates would cause white Americans to start experiencing higher COVID-19 death tolls, which would translate into a lower life expectancy as waves of illness swept the nation. The ages at which people passed away last year also contribute to the explanation of the decline in the average birth life expectancy from 77 years in 2020 to 76.4 years in 2021.
Of course, the elderly have been hardest hit by the pandemic, especially those who are 75 years old or older. But compared to other Americans, these victims are nearing the end of their expected lifespan. According to statistics, the loss of a kid or even a person who is 45 years old will have a greater impact on the country’s average lifespan than the death of an octogenarian.
However, middle-aged and younger adult COVID-19 mortality rates rose in 2021 compared to 2020. And in both years, adults between the ages of 25 and 54 had the highest rates of drug overdoses. Together, these patterns led to a startling discovery: death rates rose between 2020 and 2021 for all age groups except for newborns.
The largest rise in premature deaths among all age groups was among people aged 35 to 44, which suffered a 16.1% increase when statisticians compared the historical likelihood of death at each age with actual fatalities in 2021. Death rates climbed for those aged 25 to 34 by 13.4% and for those aged 45 to 54 by 12.1%.
Mortality rates were 10% higher in 2021 than they were in 2020, even for children between 1 and 4 years old. Since 1900, when a newborn American could expect to live 47.3 years, U.S. lifespans have increased, with a few hiccups along the way.
The one significant exception: Life expectancies plunged in 1917 and 1918 as a result of the First World War and the Spanish Flu Pandemic, dropping from 54.5 years in 1915 to 39.1 years in 1918. Around the year 2000, when deaths from drugs, suicide, gun violence, and chronic illnesses started to rise steadily, America’s consistent improvements in life expectancy started to slow down. By 2010, the United States has begun to lag behind most other wealthy nations in terms of lifespans.
The average lifespan of newborn Americans was 4.7 years less by 2020 than that of their peers in other wealthy nations, placing them more in line with Peruvian and Thai norms than with those of France, Israel, or South Korea.
The United States was unlikely to close the gap in 2021 with the third-highest COVID-19 death rate in the globe. It might not be the beginning of a long-term trend for life expectancy to decline after two years. However, Woolf claimed that the lingering impacts of the epidemic on both mental and physical health, the ongoing scourge of addiction, and the disproportionate toll of gun violence do not bode well for bringing the U.S. life expectancy in line with that of our contemporaries.
The experience of other nations teaches us that this wasn’t always the case, according to Woolf. He claimed that nations who supported the COVID-19 vaccination and other public health initiatives as well as more equitable medical care delivery “had proved it was feasible to have an epidemic and have a different conclusion.”