COVID-19 Pandemic Has Significantly Affected Life Expectancy

The drop is the largest single-year decline in life expectancy in 40 years and is the lowest estimate since 2003.

The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has significantly affected life expectancy in the United States, according to a study published in the Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences.

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused over 1.98 million deaths and there have been more than 91.8 million confirmed cases worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. In the United States alone, more than 336,000 people have died.

The new study projects that life expectancy at birth will shorten by 1.13 years to 77.48 years. According to the study, this is the largest single-year decline in life expectancy in 40 years and is the lowest estimate since 2003.

Additionally, drops were even greater for minority populations. For Black Americans, researchers projected a 2.10-year drop in lifespan to 72.78. For Latino Americans, life expectancy shortened by 3.05 years to 78.77, according to the study.

White Americans also experienced a drop in life expectancy, though the projected decline for this group is much smaller. There is a projected drop of 0.68 years for this group, bringing life expectancy to 77.84 years.

"Our study analyzes the effect of this exceptional number of deaths on life expectancy for the entire nation, as well as the consequences for marginalized groups," said study author Theresa Andrasfay, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow at the USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology, in a press release. "The COVID-19 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 outcomes."

The pandemic has also seemingly eliminated many of the grains made in closing the Black-white life expectancy gap since 2006, according to the study. Additionally, the pandemic has also affected the “Latino paradox,” a phenomenon in which Latinos have consistently experienced lower mortality than whites. According to the study, the more than 3-year survival rate difference previously between the 2 groups was reduced in less than a year.

REFERENCE

COVID-19 reduced US life expectancy, especially among Black and Latino populations [News Release] January 14, 2021; Los Angeles, CA. Accessed January 15, 2021. https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2021-01/uosc-cru011421.php.