Life expectancy increases in the US but remains far below that in other developed countries

Life expectancy in the United States increased last year to 77 years and six months, but it is still nowhere near what it was before the COVID-19 pandemic.

The increase in life expectancy seen in 2022 was mainly due to the decline of the pandemic, researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explained on Wednesday.

But even with the improvement, life expectancy in the country It was only last year at almost the same levels as it was two decades ago.

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Life expectancy is an estimate of the average number of years a baby born in a given year could expect to live, assuming mortality rates at that time remain constant.

Statistics are considered one of the most important measures of population health. The 2022 estimates released Wednesday are provisional and could change slightly as they are finalized.

Why do Americans live less?

For decades, life expectancy in the United States rose a little almost every year. But about a decade ago, the trend flattened and even declined in some years, a setback largely attributed to overdose deaths and suicides.

Then came the coronavirus, which has killed more than 1.1 million people in the United States since the beginning of 2020. The measure of American longevity plummeted, from 78 years and 10 months in 2019, to 77 years in 2020, and then at 76 years and 5 months in 2021.

Life expectancy is an estimate of the average number of years a baby born in a given year could expect to live.Yoshiyoshi Hirokawa/Getty Images

We have basically lost 20 years of achievements”said Elizabeth Arias of the CDC. A decline in COVID-19 deaths fueled the 2022 improvement.

In 2021, COVID was the third leading cause of death in the country (after heart disease and cancer). Last year, it fell to the fourth leading cause. With just over a month until the new year, preliminary data suggests that COVID-19 could end up being the ninth or tenth leading cause of death in 2023.

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The country is struggling with other problems, including deaths from drug overdoses and suicides.

The number of suicides in the United States reached an all-time high last year, and the national suicide rate was the highest recorded since 1941, according to a second CDC report released Wednesday.

Additionally, drug overdose deaths in the United States rose slightly last year after two big jumps at the start of the pandemic. And during the first six months of this year, the estimated number of overdose deaths continued to inch upward.

Life expectancy in the United States also remains lower than in dozens of other countries. It also didn’t recover as quickly as other places, including France, Italy, Spain and Sweden.

Steven Woolf, a mortality researcher at Virginia Commonwealth University, said he hopes the United States will eventually return to pre-pandemic life expectancy.

But “what I’m trying to say is: that’s not a good place to be,” he added.

Do men or women live longer?

Some other highlights from the new report:

Life expectancy increased for both men and women and for all racial and ethnic groups.

Declining COVID-19 deaths drove 84% of the increase in life expectancy seen now. The next largest contributor was a decline in deaths from heart disease, which is blamed for about 4% of the increase. But experts note that deaths from heart disease increased during the pandemic, and both played a role in many deaths during that period.

Changes in life expectancy varied by race and ethnicity. Hispanic Americans, American Indians and Alaska Natives saw their life expectancy increase by more than two years in 2022. Black life expectancy increased by more than a year and a half. The life expectancy of Asian Americans increased by one year and the life expectancy of whites increased by about 10 months.

But the changes are relative, because Hispanic Americans and Native Americans were hardest hit at the start of COVID-19. Hispanic life expectancy fell more than four years between 2019 and 2021, and Native American life expectancy fell more than six years.

“Many of the big increases in life expectancy are coming from the groups that suffered the most from COVID,” said Mark Hayward, a sociology professor at the University of Texas who researches how different factors affect adult deaths. “They had more things to recover from.”