Jun 24, 2021 - Health

Study: U.S. life expectancy fell by more than a year in 2020

Photo of a blue sign with white text that says "Practice social distancing" hung on a fence in a metropolitan area

Photo: Jeenah Moon/Bloomberg via Getty Images

COVID-19 deaths were associated with a decline in U.S. life expectancy by more than a year in 2020, according to new research published Thursday.

Driving the news: The study, published in the journal, JAMA Network Open, found that people of color were disproportionately impacted. Compared to white people, the reduction in life expectancy is three times larger for Latinos and twice as large for Black people.

By the numbers: 2020 life expectancy in the U.S. fell overall from 78.74 years to 77.43 years, per researchers' estimates: a decline of 1.13 years for the total population, 0.68 for white people, 2.10 for Black people and 3.05 for Latinos.

  • Latinos had the largest life expectancy decline associated with the coronavirus.
    • "This unprecedented change likely stems from social and economic inequities that are associated with both higher exposure to infection and higher fatality among those infected," researchers noted, citing Latinos' low rates of health care insurance, greater likelihood to live in multigenerational households and language barriers.
  • The decrease in life expectancy has continued in 2021. COVID-19 deaths through early April 2021 "already indicate an almost 0.6-year reduction in overall 2021 U.S. life expectancy with continued disproportionate changes for the Black and Latino populations."
  • Researchers pulled data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Vital Statistics System and the U.S. Census Bureau to calculate their estimates.

Worth noting: A different study published Wednesday in the medical journal, The BMJ, said that COVID took a much greater toll on U.S. life expectancy compared to other high-income nations.

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