Study finds big drop in US life expectancy, especially for Blacks, Hispanics

Life expectancy in the United States declined by the largest amount since World War II between 2018 and 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic, a new study finds. 

The study published in the British Medical Journal finds that U.S. life expectancy declined by 1.87 years between 2018 and 2020, from 78.74 years to 76.87 years. 

That decline comes as COVID-19 caused more deaths in the U.S. than have been reported in any other country, with the total now over 600,000. 


The drop in life expectancy was disproportionately high among Black and Hispanic Americans, declining by 3.88 years among Hispanic people, 3.25 years among Black people, and 1.36 years among White people. 

The U.S. also does not stack up well when compared to a peer group of other high-income countries in the study. The U.S. life expectancy decline was 8.5 times the drop in peer countries (0.22 years), increasing the gap between the U.S. and peer countries to 4.69 years.

“The US had a much larger decrease in life expectancy between 2018 and 2020 than other high income nations, with pronounced losses among the Hispanic and non-Hispanic Black populations,” the authors write. 

Richard Besser, former acting head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, now president of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, said the results should be a wake-up call. 

“For decades, the US has been losing ground in life expectancy to other wealthy nations, and these findings show that the gap widened even more due to Covid-19,” he said in a statement. “The study further confirms that how long people live in the United States depends in large part on income, skin color, and geography.”

“We must use this moment to correct the mistakes of the past and create a fairer and more just future,” he added. 

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