Sep 1, 2022 - News

Life expectancy drops in U.S. for second year

Change in U.S. life expectancy at birth, 2019-2020
Data: Arias, et al., 2022, "U.S. State Life Tables, 2020"; Map: Simran Parwani/Axios

The pandemic saw the U.S experience its largest drop in average life expectancy since nearly 100 years ago, according to CDC data over a two-year period.

Driving the news: New provisional data released by the CDC this week shows that life expectancy at birth declined nearly a year from 2020 to 2021.

  • Just last week, the CDC published data showing that life expectancy fell 1.8 years between 2019 and 2020.
  • Together, the datasets show U.S. life expectancy at birth down 2.7 years over the two years — the largest two-year decline since 1921–1923.

The big picture: COVID-19 primarily fueled the drop, along with unintentional injuries, mainly drug overdoses.

By the numbers: The 2021 provisional data puts the average U.S. life expectancy at birth at 76.1 years, its lowest level since 1996.

Zoom in: In Pennsylvania, the average life expectancy was 76.8 in 2020, a dip of 1.5 years from 2019, according to finalized CDC data released earlier this month.

  • Pennsylvania ranked 30th among states for life expectancy in 2020.
  • Of note: The 2021 provisional data doesn't break down the data by state.

More than 46,700 people in the Keystone State have died from COVID-related complications, of which 5,259 were in Philadelphia, according to the state's online database.

In Philadelphia, life expectancy varies wildly by neighborhood due to a variety of economic and social issues, such as substance abuse and gun violence. Some areas of the city have a life expectancy separated by 20 years, according to a 2019 city report.


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