The life expectancy of Americans dropped during 2020 as the coronavirus took an unprecedented toll on human life, according to a new study co-authored by University of Colorado Boulder researchers.
The study, which was published Wednesday, found that life expectancy in the U.S. fell by almost two years between 2018 and 2020, making it the largest decrease since World War II.
Life expectancy declined disproportionately among Black and Latino Americans. More younger people also died in 2020, especially men younger than 65, according to the study in The BMJ, a medical journal published by the British Medical Association
“We were on a concerning trajectory relative to other countries for many years in terms of life expectancy, but the declines were only marginal,” said Ryan Masters, a co-author of the study and assistant professor of sociology at CU Boulder’s Institute of Behavioral Science, in a statement. “Along comes COVID and the effect on the U.S. population has been just atrocious.”
The life expectancy among Latinos declined 3.88 years between 2018 and 2020. It also declined 3.25 years among Black Americans during the same time period. By comparison, life expectancy among white Americans dropped by 1.36 years, according to the study.
The findings mirror an analysis of death certificate data by The Denver Post, which found Latinos and Asian Americans saw higher increases in overall deaths in Colorado in 2020. Overall, almost 9,000 more Coloradans died last year than would be expected in a normal year.
The life expectancy gap between the U.S. and other high-income counties also continued to widen. The life expectancy gap rose to 4.69 years during the two years examined by the researchers from CU Boulder, Virginia Commonwealth University and the Urban Institute.
By comparison, the life expectancy gap rose from 1.88 years to 3.05 years between 2010 and 2018, according to the study.
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