Health officials are reporting that life expectancy in the United States dropped a staggering one year during the first half of 2020 as the coronavirus pandemic caused its first wave of deaths.
Minorities suffered the most significant impact, with Black Americans losing nearly three years and Hispanics almost two years.
“This is a huge decline,” said Robert Anderson, who oversees the numbers for the CDC. “You have to go back to World War II, the 1940s, to find a decline like this.”
Other health experts say it shows the profound impact of COVID-19, not just on deaths directly due to infection but also from heart disease, cancer, and other conditions.
“What is really quite striking in these numbers is that they only reflect the first half of the year … I would expect that these numbers would only get worse,” said Dr. Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, a health equity researcher and dean at the University of California, San Francisco.
This is the first time the CDC has reported on life expectancy from early, partial records; more death certificates from that period may yet come in. It’s already known that 2020 was the deadliest year in U.S. history, with deaths topping 3 million for the first time.
Life expectancy is how long a baby born today can expect to live, on average. In the first half of last year, 77.8 years for Americans overall, down one year from 78.8 in 2019. For males, it was 75.1 years, and for females, 80.5 years.