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U.S. Life Expectancy Falling with the Pandemic

In 2020, the average Life Expectancy in the United States fell, expanding the gap between the United States and other high-income countries. According to a new study, the fall was particularly pronounced among Hispanic and Black Americans. Health professionals expected Life Expectancy to plummet during the epidemic, but the magnitude of the drop surprised them.

Steven Woolf, director emeritus of the Center on Society and Health at Virginia Commonwealth University, said, “I naively thought the pandemic would not make a big difference in the gap because my thinking was that it’s a global pandemic, so every country is going to take a hit. What I didn’t anticipate was how badly the U.S. would handle the pandemic.”

To analyze changes in Life Expectancy between 2018 and 2020 among Black, white, and Hispanic Americans, the new study used data from the National Center for Health Statistics, which is part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Human Mortality Database. The researchers could not include Asian, Pacific Islander, American Indian, and Alaska Native populations in the study due to a lack of data.

The findings were published in The BMJ on Wednesday. Between 2018 and 2020, the average Life Expectancy at birth in the United States fell by 1.9 years, 8.5 times the average drop among 16 comparable nations, which was 2.5 months. The gap between the U.S. and its rivals has expanded to about five years, but the disparity is significantly more considerable among Black and Hispanic Americans.

Compared to white Americans, who saw their average Life Expectancy drop by around 1.4 years between 2018 and 2020, Hispanic Americans saw their average Life Expectancy plummet by just under 3.9 years. A Black American’s average lifetime has shrunk by 3.25 years.

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