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  • Writer's pictureMichael Laxer

Life expectancy in the US drops dramatically

In a remarkable development that is a clear indictment of healthcare and public health initiatives in the United States, life expectancy at birth for both men and women has fallen dramatically in the country.

It fell from 78.8 years in 2019 to 77 in 2020 and 76.1 in 2021. This is at least in part due to the impact of the Covid-19 epidemic in the US and the way it was handled. More than 1 million people in the US died as a result.

Annalisa Merelli in STAT notes:

This puts the country far behind its wealthy peers: Countries such as Japan, Korea, Portugal, the U.K., and Italy all enjoy a life expectancy of 80 years or more. Countries such as Turkey (78.6) and China (78.2) also fare better.

The life expectancy for men in the United States is now almost six years less than that of women (79.1 years) having fallen to 73.2 years. The study attributes this disparity to the higher mortality rates among men due to COVID-19 and drug overdoses.

“This analysis finds that COVID-19 and the drug- overdose epidemic were major contributors to the widening gender gap in life expectancy in recent years,"...Some reasons for this difference could include higher rates of comorbidities and health behaviors among men, as well as some socioeconomic factors such as rates of incarceration and homelessness...
“The increase in overdose deaths, homicide, and suicide underscore twin crises of deaths from despair and firearm violence,”

Brandon Yan, a resident physician at the UCSF School of Medicine and a research collaborator at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, who is the lead author of the study explained “We have a health care system that is very advanced in treating illnesses and advanced disease. But for the most part … it is not very good when it comes to preventative care.”

Yan told Merelli that the analysis doesn’t provide insight into racial and ethnic differences. Yan says it is an area he and his colleagues plan to explore further:

We know that the disparity at baseline between men and women is much higher for Black Americans than it is for white Americans, for instance. And the interplay between gender and race is an important area for further study,” he said. As of 2022, the life expectancy for African American men was 61.5, nearly eight years shorter than for African American women.



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