Life expectancy in the United States dropped a full year during the beginning half of 2020 due to the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic, health officials announced.
The drops were greatest among people of color, according to preliminary estimates from the CDC. The life expectancy for black Americans and Hispanic Americans dropped almost three and two years, respectively while the expectancy for white Americans fell 0.8 years.
“This is a huge decline,” said Robert Anderson, who oversaw the data from the CDC. “You have to go back to World War II, the 1940s, to find a decline like this.”
In addition to the rampant spread of the coronavirus in the first half of 2020, health experts attributed the sharp decline to other ailments including infection, cancer and heart disease.
“What is really quite striking in these numbers is that they only reflect the first half of the year,” said Dr. Kristin Bibbins-Domingo, a health equity researcher and dean at the University of California, San Francisco, according to the Associated Press. “I expect that these numbers would only get worse.”
The report only shows data from the first half of 2020, meaning that the hundreds of thousands of deaths recorded in the summer and fall were not recorded. The coronavirus also made 2020 the deadliest year in American history, with over 3 million deaths recorded nationwide.
The life expectancy in 2019 was 78.8 years, and fell to 77.8 years, the report said. The expectancy was 75.1 years for males and 80.5 years for females.
Dr. Otis Brawley, a cancer specialist and public health professor at Johns Hopkins University, attributed the decline, in part, to the country’s “mishandling of the pandemic.”
“We have been devastated by the coronavirus more so than any other country,” he said, according to the AP. “We are 4% of the world’s population, more than 20% of the world’s coronavirus deaths.”
Almost 28 million coronavirus cases have been confirmed in the U.S. so far, and over 490,000 Americans have died, according to a Johns Hopkins University database.