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  • Ryan Wittler

U.S. Life Expectancy Dropped for the Second Year in a Row, Reaching Its Lowest Level Since 1996


A new analysis by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention shows U.S. life expectancy at birth dropped from 77.0 years in 2020 to 76.1 in 2021, taking life expectancy to its lowest level since 1996.

Analysis highlights:

The 0.9 year drop in 2021 combined with the 1.8 year drop in 2020 represents the largest two-year decline in U.S. life expectancy (2.7 years) since 1921-1923.

American Indian and Alaskan Natives (AIAN) experienced the largest drop in 2021 at 1.9 years, and now have a life expectancy at birth of 65.2 years, equivalent to that of the U.S. population in 1944.

  • Since 2019, life expectancy for AIAN people has fallen by 6.6 years, by far the largest of any racial group.

Non-Hispanic white people had the second biggest decline in 2021, dropping a full year from 77.4 years in 2020 to 76.4 in 2021.

  • Non-Hispanic Black people experienced the third largest decline, dropping 0.7 years from 71.5 in 2020 to 70.8 in 2021.

  • Life expectancy for both groups now sits at its lowest since 1995.

Life expectancy for women dropped 0.8 years from 79.9 in 2020 to 79.1 in 2021, slightly below the full year drop for men from 74.2 years in 2020 to 73.2 in 2021.

What’s behind it?

The CDC says COVID deaths are to blame, accounting for 74% of the decline from 2019 to 2020 and 50% of the decline from 2020 to 2021.

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