Apr 12, 2022 - Health

U.S. saw highest death total ever in 2021 largely due to COVID-19

Members of Congress participate in a moment of silence for the 900,000 American lives lost to Covid-19 on the steps of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Monday, Feb. 7, 2022.
Members of Congress participate in a moment of silence for the lives lost to Covid-19 on Feb. 7. Photo: Julia Nikhinson/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The U.S. experienced its highest death total ever in 2021 largely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

Driving the news: There were more than 3.465 million deaths in 2021 — about 80,000 more than 2020′s record-setting total, AP reports.

  • There were more than 415,000 deaths from COVID in 2021, up from 351,000 the year prior.
  • The crude death rate for cancer increased modestly, in addition to increases in deaths from diabetes, chronic liver disease and stroke.

Between the lines: Deaths from drug overdoses also contributed to the record-breaking death total in 2021, per AP.

  • Experts attribute the spike in drug overdose deaths — which rose particularly among 14- to 18-year-olds — to an increase in fentanyl, which researchers say "have been increasingly added to counterfeit pills resembling prescription opioids, benzodiazepines, and other drugs."
  • Adolescent overdose deaths in the U.S. more than doubled from 2010 to 2021, according to a study released Tuesday in the Journal of American Medical Association.

The big picture: The data comes as the average U.S. life expectancy has fallen by more than two years in 2020 and 2021, according to a study out last week that has not yet been peer-reviewed.

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