The coronavirus pandemic shortened American lives by a wider degree in 2020 than any cause other than heart disease and cancer, according to a new analysis.
Provisional data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, analyzed by the Pew Research Center, found the virus that killed more than 380,000 Americans last year — and more than 600,000 to date — cost nearly 5.5 million years of life that those victims would otherwise have been expected to live.
That is more years of lost life than Americans lose to all accidents combined, including traffic accidents, drug overdoses, drownings and firearm deaths. It is about half the 10.2 million years of life that cancer costs Americans in a given year.
The measurement of the number of life years lost to any particular cause takes into account the average life expectancy of a victim.
The average victim of the coronavirus lost 14 years of life, according to the CDC data, comparable to the life lost by those who suffer from heart disease or stroke. The average victim of an accident loses 31 years of life, a reflection that those who suffer accidental deaths are likely to be younger than those who died because of the coronavirus.
About 80 percent of those who died after contracting the virus were over 65 years old, according to the CDC. The typical American who reaches 65 years old can be expected to live to 85.
“The pandemic, in other words, has killed many Americans who otherwise might have expected to live for years or even decades longer,” Pew researcher Stephanie Kramer wrote. “Older Americans are more likely than their younger counterparts to die from causes including heart disease, Alzheimer’s — and now Covid-19.”