US life expectancy in 2020 cut by nearly 2 years due largely to Covid

CDC data released one day after study shows population growth slowest in US history

A funeral home worker puts on personal protective equipment gear before transporting the body of a deceased coronavirus patient in the US state of New Mexico this month. Reuters

US life expectancy dropped by 1.8 years in 2020, final official figures showed on Wednesday, the steepest drop in more than 75 years, driven in large part by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The grim findings come a day after a separate study found that US population growth has slowed to its lowest rate since the nation's founding in 1776.

Life expectancy at birth was 77.0 years for the total US population last year, down from 78.8 years in 2019, according to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Among men it was 74.2 years, while for women the figure was 79.9 years.

Overall, Covid-19 was the third-leading cause of death, accounting for 350,000 fatalities — over a tenth of the 3.4 million resident deaths registered in the year, said a CDC report that finalised preliminary findings from July.

There were sharp increases in other causes of death, too, reflecting broader strains caused by the pandemic and difficulties gaining access to medical treatment.

From 2019 to 2020, age-adjusted death rates increased 4.1 per cent for heart disease, 16.8 per cent for unintentional injuries, 4.9 per cent for strokes, 8.7 per cent for Alzheimer disease, 14.8 per cent for diabetes and 5.7 per cent for influenza and pneumonia.

The age-adjusted death rate for the total population increased 16.8 per cent, the largest jump in a single year since annual mortality data became available.

Among both men and women, increases in death rates for black and Hispanic Americans were bigger than those for whites. The highest rates were among black males, with 1,399 deaths per 100,000 in 2020.

Agencies contributed to this report.

Updated: December 22nd 2021, 3:56 PM