In this December 2020 photo, flags planted by volunteers visualize lives lost in the U.S. to COVID-19 as part of an installation by artist Suzanne Firstenberg in D.C. At the time, the death toll had reached 300,000. As of July 2021, the number of deaths had doubled.
It was the largest one-year decline since World War II, when life expectancy dropped by 2.9 years between 1942 and 1943. Hispanic and Black communities saw the biggest declines.
For African Americans, life expectancy dropped by 2.9 years from 74.7 years in 2019 to 71.8 in 2020.
U.S. Hispanics — who have a longer life expectancy than non-Hispanic Blacks or whites saw the largest decline in life expectancy during the pandemic, dropping 3 years from 81.8 years in 2019 to 78.8 years in 2020. Hispanic males saw the biggest decline, with a drop of 3.7 years. COVID-19 was responsible for 90% of the decline among Hispanics.
The increase in drug overdose deaths was also a factor in declining life expectancy. More than 93,000 people died from drug overdoses in 2020. That’s the highest number reported in a single year. Other causes of death contributing to the decline were increases in homicide and deaths from diabetes and chronic liver disease.
Just last month a study published in the British Medical Journallooked at life expectancy data for the U.S. and compared it to life expectancy data from 16 other high income countries. The study found the U.S. decrease in life expectancy from 2018 to 2020 was 8.5 times greater than the average decrease in peer countries. And the U.S. declines were most pronounced among minority groups, specifically Black and Hispanic people.