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Life expectancy falls 1 year amid pandemic in biggest drop since WWII

Life expectancy falls 1 year amid pandemic in biggest drop since WWII
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Life expectancy fell one year in the first six months of 2020 in the biggest drop since World War II as the U.S. dealt with the coronavirus pandemic, according to a report released Thursday.  

Initial data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) determined that the life expectancy fell from 78.8 years in 2019 to 77.8 years during the first half of 2020. Men saw a drop of 1.2 years to 75.1 years, while women saw a decrease of 0.9 years to 80.5 years amid the pandemic.

Black Americans and Hispanic Americans experienced an even greater drop in life expectancy, as their communities have recorded a disproportionate number of COVID-19 cases and deaths.

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Life expectancy for Black Americans fell 2.7 years to 72, and it dropped 1.9 years for Hispanic Americans to 79.9 years. Meanwhile, white Americans experienced a 0.8-year decrease to 78. The CDC’s initial data did not report the change in life expectancy among Asian Americans or Native Americans. 

The drop in life expectancy, which measures how long on average a baby born today can expect to live, shows the early impact of the coronavirus crisis in 2020. Last year was already confirmed to be the deadliest year in U.S. history, surpassing 3 million deaths in the country for the first time, according to The New York Times. 

“What is really quite striking in these numbers is that they only reflect the first half of the year. ... I would expect that these numbers would only get worse,” Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, a health equity researcher and dean at the University of California, San Francisco, said, according to The Associated Press.  

Overall, the U.S. has confirmed more than 27.8 million COVID-19 cases, leading to more than 490,000 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University 

The last pandemic to affect the U.S.’s life expectancy this greatly was the flu in 1918, which caused the statistic to plummet 11.8 years from 1917's expectancy, the Times noted. Life expectancy came back the next year as the flu subsided, but experts told the newspaper that the social and economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic will continue, especially for minority communities.

The U.S. also experienced declines in life expectancy from 2014 to 2017 during the opioid epidemic and in 1993 due to the AIDS epidemic.

--Updated at 9:32 a.m.