Life Expectancy Has Dived, With Huge Racial Disparities

2020 has seen the biggest US life expectancy drop in decades, researchers say
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 15, 2021 10:00 AM CST
COVID Has Cut Our Life Expectancy— but Not Equally
In this Monday, Dec. 21, 2020 photo, engineers and volunteers stand outside a mobile field hospital at UCI Medical Center, in Orange, Calif.   (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)

The pandemic cut the average life expectancy of Americans by more than a year in 2020, the largest single-year decline in more than 40 years, according to a study released Thursday. The study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences says that based on provisional estimates of death rates, life expectancy was shortened by 1.13 years to 77.48 years, the lowest since 2003. But there were huge disparities between races. Life expectancy among white Americans fell by 0.68 years, to 77.84 years, the USC and Princeton researchers say, but for Black people, it dived by 2.10 years to 72.78 years, and for Latinos, life expectancy plunged 3.05 years to 78.77 years, NBC Los Angeles reports.

The pandemic's "disproportionate effect on the life expectancy of Black and Latino Americans likely has to do with their greater exposure through their workplace or extended family contacts, in addition to receiving poorer health care, leading to more infections and worse outcome," says study co-author Theresa Andrasfay. The life expectancy gap between white and Black Americans, which has been narrowing in recent years, has now grown by 40% to more than 5 years, the researchers say. They warned that "some reduction in life expectancy may persist beyond 2020 because of continued COVID-19 mortality and long-term health, social, and economic impacts of the pandemic," CNN reports. (Read more coronavirus stories.)

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