U.S. life expectancy down for second-straight year, fueled by covid-19

U.S. life expectancy down in fell in 2021 for the second year in a row, reflecting the merciless toll exacted by covid-19 on the nation’s health, according to a federal report released Wednesday.

U.S. life expectancy down for second-straight year, fueled by covid-19

This is the biggest continuous decline in life expectancy at birth since the beginning of the Roaring Twenties. Americans can now expect to live as long as they did in 1996, according to provisional data released by the National Center for Health Statistics, part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Overall, life expectancy dropped from 77 years in 2020 to 76.1 years in 2021. U.S. life expectancy down , The biggest decline was among Native Americans, whose life expectancy in 2021 plummeted to 65, the age of eligibility for Medicare; in a single year, Native Americans forfeited nearly two years of life. White people had the second-biggest drop, losing a full year of life expectancy, while Black people lost 0.7 years. In 2021, things should have been far better,” said Noreen Goldman, a Princeton University demographer who has studied socioeconomic disparities in health for years and whose research focuses on the pandemic’s effect on life expectancy. “There’s some countries whose life expectancy in ’21 was higher than pre-pandemic. They suffered in 2020, and by ’21, they had more than recovered. That’s not us.” The federal report highlights two key things, said Reed Tuckson, co-founder of the Black Coalition Against Covid. The first: that many of these deaths were unnecessary and preventable, Tuckson said. The second: The extraordinary efforts made by the Black community to overcome the excess burden of death that plagued it at the beginning of the pandemic so it could “save itself.”

“We had to come from so much further back,” said Tuckson, an internist and former D.C. commissioner of public health. “As disease has progressed through society the last couple of years, that gap has closed. Simultaneously, White America, particularly in red states, is not as compliant with guidance. Leadership was much less focused. And we’re probably seeing the results of that.” Some of that goes back to messaging, public health experts said. “You must talk about the disparities, but you have to talk about the disparities in a careful way,” said Thomas A. LaVeist, dean of the Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine. “It didn’t mean that Whites were not at risk.” Throughout the pandemic, the coronavirus has disproportionately carved a path of death and disease through the nation’s communities of color. U.S. life expectancy down , The chasms between the health status of the nation’s racial and ethnic groups are centuries in the making, with marginalized people suffering the deleterious consequences of entwining environmental, economic and political factors that put them at higher risk of chronic conditions that leave immune systems vulnerable. “If someone from a community experienced lifelong food insecurity, no proper access to primary care doctors and other adverse experiences, their immune response to a disease like covid would be poor,” said Dana Burr Bradley, dean of the Erickson School of Aging Studies at the University of Maryland at Baltimore County.

U.S. life expectancy down , And so, even before the pandemic, Native American and Black people lived shorter lives than most other Americans. The truncated life spans reflect a broader disparity: higher rates of obesity, diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke and chronic liver disease than experienced by White people. And research shows that they develop those chronic conditions years earlier, too. It is because of this history that Abigail Echo-Hawk, executive vice president at the Seattle Indian Health Board and director of the Urban Indian Health Institute, said she takes issue with the way the report frames the drop in life expectancy among Native Americans as primarily the result of covid-19. The federal study also cites unintentional injuries, chronic liver disease and cirrhosis. “We’re not at risk because we’re Native,” she said. This is “a virus that took advantage of the rampant health disparities that have been created by this country. That’s what this paper shows. We have to recognize it for what it is.”

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