CDC: US life expectancy fell nearly 2 years in 2020

Life expectancy in the U.S. dropped nearly two years in 2020, from 78.8 years in 2019 to 77 years in 2020, according to the CDC's finalized mortality report published Dec. 22. The decrease was largely fueled by COVID-19 deaths. 

That marks the largest one-year drop since World War II. 

"We normally don't see declines of life expectancy of this magnitude," said Bob Anderson, PhD, chief of the mortality statistics branch at the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics. "Usually when we see fluctuations in life expectancy, it's only for a couple months of the year, so this is quite significant," he told NBC News.

The death rate rose for nearly every age group among people ages 15 and older. In 2019, the age-adjusted death rate was 715.2 deaths per 100,000. Last year, that number was 835.4 per 100,000 — an increase of nearly 17 percent. Among Black and Hispanic Americans, the 2019-2020 increase was much greater: The death rate rose 28 percent among Black males and nearly 25 percent among Black females, while rates increased nearly 43 percent among Hispanic males and 32 percent for Hispanic females. Among white males, death rates increased about 13 percent; among white females, they rose 12 percent. 

In 2020, nine of the 10 leading causes of death in the U.S. remained the same as in 2019. COVID-19, however, was included for the first time as the third-leading cause of death behind heart disease and cancer. 

The CDC published provisional estimates on 2020 life expectancy earlier this year, with the latest report showing the final estimates.

 

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