- The U.S. life expectancy dropped by almost 2 years in 2020, compared to 2019.
- People of color saw a higher decline in life expectancy.
- The U.S. has a nearly 5-year lower average life expectancy than 16 of its peer countries.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic started in March 2020, extraordinary measures have been taken.
Scientists calculated the U.S.’s life expectancy using official death counts. They found that life expectancy fell by nearly two years.
“The resulting decrease in life expectancy was the largest since World War II and much larger than the losses experienced by other countries confronting the same virus,” Dr. Steven WoolfHealthline was told by Dr. Judith Sullivan, a professor at Virginia Commonwealth University in the areas of population health and equity.
“We remain stunned by the massive loss of life the United States experienced,” said Woolf. “Which vastly exceeded losses in other rich countries, and by the horrible consequences among people of color.”
The team found that the U.S. life expectancy decreased by 1.87 years in 2020 compared to 2019. This was more so for Black and Hispanic communities.
Woolf and colleagues calculated a decline between 2019-2020 of 3.70 years for Hispanic populations, and just over three years for non-Hispanic Blacks.
They also found that the drop in life expectancy was significantly greater in the U.S. than in 16 of their peer countries. They estimated that life expectancy would be about 4.7 years less in 2020 than the average of these peer nations.
According to Woolf, this comes after decades of deteriorating health status in the U.S. relative to peer countries and “persistent” health disparities among people of color that are the legacy of systemic racism and policies of exclusion.
“These systemic problems will persist and more excess deaths will occur unless the United States gets serious about addressing the root causes,” he said.
“We had previously estimated that the decrease in life expectancy in 2020 was historic and that Hispanic and Black Americans experienced massive losses,” said Woolf.
However, the analysis shows that the decline in life expectancy among peer countries was only 0.58 year. There was no comparable decrease in the U.S.
Researchers found that U.S. social security spending is less equitable and more beneficial for children and families. The U.S. does not have universal healthcare and has weaker safety and health protections.
According to the study authors this contrasts with U.S. peer policies which included Israel, Germany and Taiwan.
Researchers discovered that racialized health inequalities resulting from systemic racism and segregation played the biggest role in the decline in life expectancy of Black and Hispanic peoples.
Peter PittsThe implications of these data were explained by a former FDA Associate Commissioner and president, Center for Medicine in the Public Interest.
Pitts claims that there was also a failure to communicate public health information to those most at high risk for severe COVID-19.
“We talked a lot about why communities of color had higher rates of COVID-19 infections, and they’re all true – but we didn’t talk about the understanding of dealing with infections within those communities of color,” he said.
Improved communication might have helped people understand their disease risk.
“We didn’t take that next level of communication and say what ethnic groups are over-represented in at-risk groups?” he said.
Researchers analyzed public health data to find U.S. life expectancy declined precipitously between 2019 and 2020 – and affected minority populations most severely.
Experts believe that systemic racism and the absence of universal healthcare in the United States contributed to this decline.
Source: Health Line