The average US life expectancy dropped by a year in the first half of 2020 according to a new report from the National Center for Health Statistics, a part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Life expectancy at birth in the total US population was 77.8 years — a decline of one year from 78.8 in 2019. For males, the life expectancy at birth was 75.1 — a decline of 1.2 years from 2019. For females, life expectancy declined to 80.5 years, a 0.9 year decrease from 2019.
Deaths from COVID-19 are the main factor in the overall drop in US life expectancy between January and June 2020, the CDC says. But it’s not the only one: A surge in drug overdose deaths are a part of the decline, too.
Women tend to live longer than men and in the first half of 2020, that margin grew: The difference in their life expectancy widened to 5.4 years, from 5.1 in 2019.
The report estimated life expectancy in the United States based on provisional death counts for January to June 2020.
Because the NCHS wanted to assess the effects of 2020 increase in deaths, for the first time it published its life expectancy tables based on provisional death certificate data, rather than final counts.
The authors point out a few limitations in these estimates.
One is that the data is from the first six months of 2020 – so it does not reflect the entirety of the COVID-19 pandemic. There is also seasonality in death patterns, with more deaths generally happening in winter than summer. This half-year data does not account for that.
Another limitation is that the COVID-19 pandemic struck different parts of the US at different times in the year. The areas most affected in the first half of 2020 are more urban and have different demographics than the areas hit hard by the virus later in the year.
As a result, the authors write, “life expectancy for the first half of 2020 may be underestimated since the populations more severely affected, Hispanic and non-Hispanic black populations, are more likely to live in urban areas.”
The report parallels the findings published last month by researchers at the University of Southern California and Princeton University, which found that the deaths caused by COVID-19 have reduced overall life expectancy by 1.13 years.
In the US, more than 488,000 people have died from COVID-19. The latest estimates from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation predict 614,503 US deaths by June 1.