by John Hugh DeMastri
Life expectancy across all groups in the U.S. has fallen 2.7 years from 2019 to 2021, the largest two-year decrease in 100 years, according to provisional data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released Wednesday.
Overall, life expectancy at birth fell to 76.1 years, with life expectancy declines driven primarily by the coronavirus pandemic and unintentional injuries including overdoses, with heart disease, liver disease and suicide representing smaller contributions, the CDC reported. While life expectancy is expected to increase slightly in 2022, it is unlikely to rise to pre-pandemic levels and CDC researchers are still waiting to see how the U.S. fares in an expected winter rise in death rates, according to Reuters.
Disparities between men and women were the greatest in more than 20 years, with the difference in life expectancy now nearly six years apart, according to Reuters. Life expectancy for men fell to 73.2 years, a one-year decline from 2020, while life expectancy for women fell to 79.1 years from 79.9 in 2020, according to the CDC report.
American Indians or Alaskan Natives (AIAN) were hit the hardest of all racial groups, with life expectancies falling 1.9 years to 65.2 years in 2021, the same as the life expectancy of the total U.S. population in 1944, the CDC reported. Contributions to the death rate from unintentional injuries, overdoses and accidents were about one-third higher than the national average, chronic liver disease and cirrhosis more than six times the national average, and suicide more than two and a half times the national average, the CDC said.
“We have a crisis of early deaths among American Indians,” Oglala Lakota tribe member Donald Warne, associate dean of diversity, equity and inclusion at the School of Medicine and Health Sciences at the University of North Dakota, toldThe Wall Street Journal.
AIAN were the only racial group studied that saw an positive offset to their life expectancy due to lowered homicide rates, which accounted for nearly one-quarter of offseting positive pressure, with the overall influence of coronavirus almost equal to unintentional injuries, according to the CDC.
The historic drop in US life expectancy
Biggest two-year decline —2.7 years in total — in almost 100 years
Now 76.1, the lowest in 25 years
Levels at 1944 for AIAN
Pandemic, accidents and overdoses were 1° drivershttps://t.co/0Z9TQIIXRwhttps://t.co/3iFlziN2Xkpic.twitter.com/relDFO7Xhb
— Eric Topol (@EricTopol) August 31, 2022
Black and Hispanic communities were also hit by an overdose epidemic, driven primarily by fentanyl, the WSJ reported. Higher death rates due to overdose amongst black, Hispanic and AIAN communities reflect the reduced access these groups have to health care, Karen Scott, president of the Foundation for Opioid Response Efforts, told the WSJ.
“Addressing the overdose crisis requires acknowledging that you have to work on many fronts at one time,” she said.
Positive contributions to life expectancy were driven primarily by decreased deaths from influenza and pneuomnia, chronic respiratory diseases, perinatal conditions and Alzheimer’s.
The CDC did not immediately respond to a Daily Caller News Foundation request for comment.
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John Hugh DeMastri is a reporter at Daily Caller News Foundation.