Feb 18, 2021 - Health

U.S. life expectancy fell by 1 year in first 6 months of pandemic

Embalmer and funeral director Kristy Oliver unwraps a new casket which will be used for a person who died after contracting COVID-19 at East County Mortuary on January 15
An embalmer and funeral director at East County Mortuary unwraps a new casket to be used for the body of a person who died after contracting COVID-19 in El Cajon, California, in January. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Life expectancy in the U.S. fell by a full year in the first half of 2020, CDC data published Thursday shows.

Why it matters: The decline from 78.8 years in 2019 to 77.8 years for January through June 2020 marks the biggest fall in longevity since World War II, underscoring the impact of COVID-19 on the U.S. The drop is even larger for Black and Hispanic Americans, who've been disproportionately affected by the pandemic.

By the numbers: Over 490,000 people have died from the coronavirus in the U.S. since the pandemic began, according to Johns Hopkins data.

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics report found that in the first six months of 2020, life expectancy for non-Hispanic Black people fell by 2.7 years, from 74.7 to 72.
  • For Hispanic people there was a fall of 1.9 years, from 81.8 to 79.9. For non-Hispanic white people, there was a drop of 0.8 years, from 78.8 to 78.

Of note: The period the CDC measured came as deaths from COVID-19 began to surge.

  • Health scientist Elizabeth Arias, a co-author of the CDC report, told the Wall Street Journal it's "very concerning when we see mortality increase to such a degree."
  • "It gives you a clear picture of the magnitude of the effect of the COVID pandemic," she added.

Read the report, via DocumentCloud:

Go deeper: How the winter surge changed COVID disparities

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