Life expectancy fell almost 2 years in 2020: CDC

Life expectancy in the U.S. dropped by almost two years last year amid the COVID-19 pandemic, representing the biggest single-year decline in more than 75 years, according to finalized statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Mortality data released by the National Center for Health Statistics calculated the life expectancy in 2020 at 77 years — a 1.8-year decrease from 2019.

COVID-19 ranked as the third leading cause of death with more than 350,000 fatalities, behind heart disease and cancer deaths, which both surpassed 600,000.

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Life expectancy among men fell 2.1 years to 74.2 years last year, while life expectancy among women dipped 1.5 years to 79.9. 

For the first time in 2020, diabetes deaths surpassed 100,000 and accidental injury fatalities reached beyond 200,000. 

Overall, the age-adjusted death rate for the whole population increased by 16.8 percent to 835.4 deaths per 100,000 people last year. 

Every age group over 15 years old and every race-ethnicity-sex group saw its death rate increase. Hispanic men and women saw the greatest surges in death rates at 42.7 percent and 32.4 percent, respectively. Black men and women followed with 28 percent and almost 25 percent rises, respectively, compared with white men and women, who saw 13.4 percent and 12.1 percent increases, respectively.

Nine of the 10 leading causes of death last year stayed consistent with 2019, with COVID-19 added to the list and suicide falling from the top 10. 

But infant mortality fell 2.9 percent last year to a record low of 541.9 infant deaths per 100,000 live births.

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Early this year, preliminary data from the first six months of 2020 released showed that life expectancy decreased by one year, with high drops among Black Americans and Hispanic Americans. Estimates from July for the entire year predicted a 1.5-year drop in life expectancy from 2019.  

A BMJ study published last month found the U.S. endured the second-largest drop in life expectancy among wealthy countries during the pandemic. 

Throughout the pandemic, the U.S. has recorded more than 51 million COVID-19 cases and almost 810,000 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.