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US life expectancy tumbles to 25-year low

Official data registered sharp increases in death rates in 2021 for the second straight year

The US posted sharp increases in death rates for a second straight year in 2021, driven largely by the Covid-19 pandemic, leaving Americans with their shortest projected life spans in a generation.

The average US life expectancy plummeted to 76.4 years in 2021 from 77 years in 2020, according to data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Thursday. The average has dropped by 2.4 years since 2019, sliding to the lowest level since Bill Clinton was running for his second term as president, ‘Macarena’ was the top pop song, and the likes of Google, Facebook, and Twitter hadn’t even come into existence.

Fatality rates increased for eight of the ten leading causes of death last year, the CDC said. The leading cause, heart disease, rose by 3.3% to an age-adjusted rate of 173.8 per 100,000 people. Covid-19 remained the number three cause, with its death rate surging 22% to 104.1 per 100,000 people. Ironically, President Joe Biden blamed his predecessor, Donald Trump, for the nation’s high Covid-19 death toll in 2020, only to see US fatalities from the virus rise even further on his watch.

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Washington Mall memorial to US Covid-19 deaths © Getty Images / Chen Mengtong
US life expectancy plummeting

In addition to deaths caused directly by Covid-19, a jump in drug-overdose fatalities has been blamed partly on the pandemic. Overdose deaths climbed 16% last year to 107,000, nearly double the number of Americans killed in the Vietnam War. This has been driven by fentanyl and other opioids.

Overall death rates rose most sharply among young people. For example, mortality rose by 16% for Americans ages 35-44, 13% in the 25-34 category and 12% for ages 45-54. Children aged 1-4 died at a 10% higher rate in 2021.

Life expectancy for US males fell to 73.5 years, down 0.7 year from the 2020 level, while the average for females dipped by 0.6 year, to 79.3 years.

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Even before the latest data was released, the US ranked behind more than 60 other countries in life expectancy, according to World Population Review. The US ranks just ahead of Cuba and close behind China and Turkey, with an estimated life expectancy of 78.2 years. That compares with average life spans of nearly 87 years for Monaco and around 85 years for Japan and Liechtenstein.


READ MORE: Why most Americans are disappointed in the healthcare system

 

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December 22, 2022 at 11:36PM
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