Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

A nurse treats a coronavirus patient

Nurse Celina Monde, RN, tends to Joseph Trejo at his bedside at St. Jude Medical Center in Fullerton, California on February 15, 2021. (Photo: Paul Bersebach/MediaNews Group/Orange County Register via Getty Images)

'Just Horrific': Pandemic Fuels Steepest Decline in US Life Expectancy Since WWII

"I myself had never seen a change this big except in the history books," said Elizabeth Arias, a CDC demographer.

Jake Johnson

New Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data out Wednesday shows that life expectancy in the U.S. fell by one and a half years in 2020, a decline fueled in large part by the deadly coronavirus pandemic.

"U.S. life expectancy at birth for 2020, based on nearly final data, was 77.3 years, the lowest it has been since 2003," reads a new report (pdf) from the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics. "Mortality due to Covid-19 had, by far, the single greatest effect on the decline in life expectancy at birth between 2019 and 2020, overall."

The new CDC figures indicate that 2020 saw the steepest single-year decline in life expectancy in the U.S.—from 78.8 years in 2019 to 77.3 last year—since World War II.

"I myself had never seen a change this big except in the history books," Elizabeth Arias, a CDC demographer and lead author of the new report, told the Wall Street Journal.

Given that they are more likely to work jobs with a high risk of coronavirus exposure and lack adequate healthcare, Black and Hispanic people have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic and the resulting fall in life expectancy.

"Between 2019 and 2020, life expectancy decreased by 3 years for the Hispanic population (81.8 to 78.8)," the CDC found. "It decreased by 2.9 years for the non-Hispanic black population (74.7 to 71.8) and by 1.2 years for the non-Hispanic white population (78.8 to 77.6)."

Other factors contributing to the decline in life expectancy last year, according to the CDC, were drug overdoses, homicide, diabetes, and chronic liver disease and cirrhosis.

"It's horrific," Anne Case, a professor emeritus of economics and public affairs at Princeton University, told the Washington Post. "It's not entirely unexpected given what we have already seen about mortality rates as the year went on, but that still doesn't stop it from being just horrific, especially for non-Hispanic Blacks and for Hispanics."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

... We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

'Bombshell': Israeli Spyware Used to Hack iPhones of US State Department Officials

Calling the Israel-based spyware maker NSO Group an "in-plain-sight national security threat," one expert warned that "a multi-agency investigation is immediately needed."

Jessica Corbett ·


US Progressive Caucus Hails Honduran Election as Chance for 'New Chapter' in Relations

"We encourage the Biden administration to use this opportunity to make a clean break with previous presidential administrations, which worked to ensure that the 2009 coup d'état succeeded."

Brett Wilkins ·


'The Facts of This Case Are So Egregious': Parents of Michigan School Shooter Charged in Killings

"There were a lot of things that could have been so simple to prevent," the Oakland County prosecutor said of the mother and father now being sought by law enforcement.

Kenny Stancil ·


Health Minister Says 'Highly Transmissible' Omicron Hitting Young Children Hard in South Africa

In South Africa's worst-affected province, children under the age of five now make up the second-largest group being admitted to hospitals.

Julia Conley ·


Groups Tell UN Food Agency to Ditch 'Toxic Alliance' With Pesticide Association

"This partnership with CropLife is in direct conflict with FAO's mandate as a U.N. institution to fulfill human rights to health, adequate food, clean water and environment, and safe working conditions."

Kenny Stancil ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo