This past year was full of news reports regarding hospitalizations and death rates related to COVID-19, both here in the United States and abroad. As such, one might wonder what impact this disease has had on life expectancy.
Wolf, Masters, and Aaron (2021) estimated life expectancy in the United States, and 16 other democracies, for the years 2010–2018 and modeled life expectancy for 2020. They also broke down the life expectancy data from the United States by race, ethnicity, and sex. The results revealed that life expectancy in the United States fell in 2020 compared to 2018. This decrease was more substantial for men than for women and for those who identified as Black or Hispanic as compared to White. As compared to the average life expectancy of the other 16 democracies, there was a greater decrease in the United States.
Readers are referred to the full article for additional comparisons made by the authors as well as their methodology for modeling the 2020 life expectancy data through simulation. While this data is striking, the authors did not examine the cause for the change in life expectancy. While COVID-19 may have been a factor, the authors acknowledge there may have been other factors like limitations in access to healthcare related to the pandemic, as well as mental health, social, and economic issues that affected the change in life expectancy.
Deliso, M. (2021) Pandemic helped cause biggest drop in US life expectancy since WWII, study finds (accessed July 5, 2021).
Woolf S, Masters R, Aron L. (2021) Effect of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 on life expectancy across populations in the USA and other high income countries: simulations of provisional mortality data. BMJ 373:n1343.
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