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CDC: U.S. life expectancy fell by a year during first half of 2020 due to COVID-19

Life expectancy dropped by one year overall in the United States during the first half of 2020, largely  because of the COVID-19 pandemic, CDC researchers said. Photo by Free-Photos/Pixabay
Life expectancy dropped by one year overall in the United States during the first half of 2020, largely  because of the COVID-19 pandemic, CDC researchers said. Photo by Free-Photos/Pixabay

Feb. 18 (UPI) -- Life expectancy in the United States declined by a year during the first half of 2020, due in large part to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to data released Thursday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

From January through June of last year, life expectancy at birth for the total population of the United States was 77.8 years, down from 78.8 years in 2019.

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For Black Americans, life expectancy fell by nearly three years over the same period, to 72 years from 74.7 years. Among Hispanic Americans, it dropped by roughly two years to 79.9 years from 81.8 years from 2019 through June 2020.

In men, life expectancy declined to 75.1 years from 76.3 years over the same period, while it fell to 80.5 years from 81.4 years for women, the agency said.

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"These numbers are horrifying, but not unexpected," population health expert Dr. Alexander C. Tsai told UPI.

"The last time [life expectancy] was 77.8 years was about a decade and a half ago -- so that is a lot of public health progress that was erased in just six months," said Tsai, a psychiatrist with the Center for Global Health at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

Tsai was not part of the CDC analysis, but he specializes in research into the "social determinants," or societal factors such as poverty and health, of life expectancy.

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The new CDC figures are based on an analysis of data on deaths nationally through the first six months of 2020 -- a period that coincides with the COVID-19 pandemic's expansion into the United States.

Hispanic Americans, who traditionally have had a longer life expectancy compared to other racial and ethnic groups, saw their so-called "advantage" in this regard compared to Black Americans increase to 7.9 years from 7.1 years in 2020.

White Americans' life expectancy advantage compared to Black Americans rose to 6 years from 4.1 years over the same period.

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Black and Hispanic people are at increased risk for infection with and death from COVID-19, according to several studies, which the researchers said figures into the new estimates.

"Maybe it would be an exaggeration to say that our Black brothers and sisters have been through a war but, then again, maybe not," Tsai said.

"We have known since the spring that Black people, American Indians and Latinas and Latinos are dying at rates far greater than White people, and ... they are dying at younger ages."

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