The pandemic has caused the largest decline in U.S. life expectancy since 1943

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U.S. life expectancy decreased 1.87 years between 2018 and 2020, a drop not seen since World War II, according to new research from Virginia Commonwealth University, the University of Colorado Boulder and the Urban Institute.

The numbers are even worse for people of color. On average, while life expectancy among white Americans decreased by 1.36 years in 2020, it decreased by 3.25 years in black Americans and 3.88 years in Hispanic Americans.

The data will be released on June 23 a The BMJ, a magazine published by British Medical Association.

Other countries also experienced decreases in life expectancy between 2018 and 2020, but the loss of life expectancy in the US was 8.5 times the average of 16 similar countries. The falls in minority populations were 15 to 18 times greater than in other countries.

“When the pandemic arrived, my naive assumption was that it would not have a major impact on the pre-existing gap between the United States and partner countries,” said Steven Woolf, MD, lead author of the study and director emeritus of the Center. on Society and Health of VCU. . “It was a global pandemic and I assumed all countries would be successful. What I didn’t anticipate was the harm that would come to the US in the pandemic and the huge number of deaths that the United States would experience.”

According to the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center, the number of deaths in the U.S. has exceeded 600,000. Excess deaths, which exceed the official count, can contribute to the impact of the pandemic, according to previous research led by Woolf.

Life expectancy trends in the U.S. were already “very worrying,” Woolf said. Since the 1980s, improvements in life expectancy in the US have not kept pace with peer countries. By 2010, life expectancy in America was declining and declining for three consecutive years. It continued to rise in other countries.

“The gap has widened for a while,” Woolf said. Then came COVID-19 and the United States had one of the highest per capita mortality rates in the world. Black and Hispanic communities were more affected than white populations. Woolf’s paper is the first to show the importance of widening life expectancy gaps. Previous reports only included data from the first half of 2020 and did not provide comparison with similar countries.

“To give some perspective, when the drop in life expectancy occurred a few years ago, it was a decrease of about 0.1 years each year that made headlines,” said Woolf, C. Kenneth and Dianne Wright Distinguished Chair of VCU. a Health of the population and Equity in health. “That’s the kind of increase or decrease we’re used to every year.”

Woolf called the 1.87-year life expectancy reduction “massive” by comparison.

“It’s like nothing we’ve seen since World War II,” he said. “1943 was the last time the United States experienced such a significant decline in life expectancy.”

Six countries in the authors ’comparison group saw their life expectancy increase during 2020: places like New Zealand, Finland and Norway. Other countries malfunctioned: Italy and Spain experienced loss of life expectancy. But none came close to the US

“The disorganized treatment of the pandemic in the United States had a lot to do with governance,” said Woolf, a professor in the Department of Family Medicine and Population Health at the VCU School of Medicine. “Our Constitution delegates public health authority to states, so we had 50 response plans. Many lives were lost because many decisions were driven by politics and ideology. COVID-19 exposed many of the systemic problems. which have been fueling the long-term declining health of Americans.

“And when vaccination overwhelms us and the COVID-19 is in the rearview mirror, those systemic problems will continue to be with us,” Woolf said.

These issues include inequalities in racial health and the role of systemic racism. The most discordant statistic for Woolf was the information about the life expectancy of black and Hispanic Americans. It is well known that COVID-19 had a disproportionate impact on people of color, but the effect on the life expectancy of these groups was “shaking,” he said.

Life expectancy in black men reached its lowest level since 1998.

“It’s a big setback because, for many years, the United States had made progress in narrowing the black-and-white mortality gap,” Woolf said. “And Hispanics, for many years, enjoyed higher life expectancies than whites, but that advantage was almost completely erased by COVID-19.”

Data on Native Americans, who also experienced very high mortality rates during the pandemic, were not examined in the study due to inadequate data.

“In many ways, the United States has turned the corner in its response to COVID-19, but emerging data on pandemic health disparities is urgent and valuable to help understand the impact on our communities,” he said. Peter Buckley, MD, dean of the VCU School of Medicine. “The differences in life expectancy between America and other countries and between the racial groups detailed in Dr. Woolf’s paper are worrisome, and I hope the figures will serve as an alarm clock for the health care community and beyond.”


Covid reduces life expectancy in Italy by almost a year


More information:
Effect of the covid-19 pandemic in 2020 on the life expectancy of populations in the US and other high-income countries: simulations of provisional mortality data, The BMJ, DOI: 10.1136 / bmj.n1343

Citation: The pandemic causes the largest decline in U.S. life expectancy since 1943 (2021, June 23), recovered on June 23, 2021 at https://medicalxpress.com/news/2021-06- decreases-life-larger-high-income.html

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