U.S. life expectancy fell by 1.5 years in 2020, largest drop since World War II

U.S. life expectancy fell by a year and a half in 2020, the largest one-year decline since World War II, according to report released Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The decrease for both Black Americans and Latino Americans was even greater: three years.

Close to 74% of the overall life expectancy decline was due to the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 3.3 million Americans died last year, far more than any other year in U.S. history, with COVID-19 accounting for about 11% of those deaths.

Black life expectancy has not fallen so much in one year since the mid-1930s, during the Great Depression. Health officials have not logged Latino life expectancy for nearly as long, but the 2020 decline was the largest recorded one-year drop in the 15 years it has been tracked.

The abrupt fall is “basically catastrophic,” said Mark Hayward, a University of Texas sociology professor who studies changes in U.S. mortality.

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