COVID-19 pandemic reduced life expectancy for Americans

Life expectancy in the United States fell by one year during the first half of 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic caused its first wave of deaths, health officials reported Thursday.

People of color were hit the hardest: African Americans lost nearly three years of life expectancy and Latinos nearly two years, according to preliminary estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“It’s a huge decline,” said Robert Anderson, chief of mortality statistics at the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics. “You have to go back to World War II, in the 1940s, to find a decline like this.”

Other health experts say this shows the profound impact of COVID-19, not only on deaths directly from coronavirus infections, but also from heart disease, cancer and other conditions.

“What’s really surprising about these numbers is that they only reflect the first half of the year … You would anticipate the numbers to get worse,” said Dr. Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, a health equity researcher at the UC School of Medicine. San Francisco.

This is the first time the CDC has reported life expectancy from early partial records; More death certificates from that period may still arrive. It is already known that 2020 was the deadliest year in the history of the country; deaths exceeded three million for the first time.

Life expectancy indicates how long a baby born today can expect to live, on average. In the first half of last year, it was 77.8 years for Americans in general, one year less than in 2019. Differentiated between men and women, the figure was 75.1 years for the first and 80.5 years for them.

As a group, Latinos in the US have had the greatest longevity, and still do. Black people are now six years behind white people in life expectancy, reversing a trend that had been narrowing the gap since 1993.

Between 2019 and the first half of 2020, life expectancy decreased 2.7 years for blacks, to 72. It also fell 1.9 years for Latinos, to 79.9, and 0.8 years for whites, to 78. The preliminary report did not analyze the trends for Asian Americans and Native Americans.

“Black and Hispanic communities across the United States have been the hardest hit by this pandemic,” Bibbins-Domingo said.

They are more likely to have essential, low-wage jobs and live in crowded environments where the coronavirus is easier to spread and where “there are large pre-existing health disparities” that increase the risk of dying from COVID-19, he noted.

Vaccines need to be distributed more equitably, working conditions strengthened and people of color better protected from infection, as well as included in financial aid measures, he added.

Dr. Otis Brawley, a cancer specialist and professor of public health at Johns Hopkins University, agreed.

“The approach really needs to be broad-based, so that all Americans get the proper care. And medical care has to be defined as both prevention and treatment, ”he explained. In general, the drop in life expectancy is further proof of “our mismanagement of the pandemic,” said the doctor.

“The coronavirus has devastated us, more than any other country. We are 4% of the global population, but we have more than 20% of deaths from coronavirus in the world, “he explained.

Insufficient use of masks, early dependence on drugs such as hydroxychloroquine – “which turned out to be useless” – and other missteps resulted in the avoidable deaths of many Americans, Brawley said.

“Looking ahead, we must practice the basics,” such as washing hands, distancing ourselves physically and getting vaccinated as soon as possible so that prevention gets back on track, he added.

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