US sees biggest fall in life expectancy since WW II, study finds

U.S. life expectancy fell by nearly two years between 2018 and 2020, researchers estimate in a study published June 24 in The BMJ.

The finding is based on an analysis of 2018-19 data from the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics, along with estimates for 2020. 

Average U.S. life expectancy was 78.7 years in 2018 and fell to 76.9 by the end of 2020, researchers found.

"We have not seen a decrease like this since World War II. It's a horrific decrease in life expectancy," study author Steven Woolf, MD, a professor of family medicine and population health at Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine in Richmond, told NPR.

Pandemic-related healthcare disruptions, gaps in chronic disease management and the behavioral health crisis are all likely contributing factors to the decreased life expectancy, alongside COVID-19, Dr. Woolf said.

The study also found larger decreases in life expectancy among people of color. Black Americans saw life expectancy fall 3.3 years, and Hispanic Americans saw a 3.9-year drop.

These disparities are "likely the products of long-standing policy choices and systemic racism," study authors said.

To view the full study, click here.

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