U.S. Life Expectancy Creeps Up as Covid Deaths Fall

Life expectancy in the United States has begun to climb again as the threat of Covid-19 has receded, increasing by more than a year between 2021 and 2022, according to data released Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The rise represents a slow and partial recovery for the country, which tallied more than 1.1 million Covid-19 deaths and lost 2.4 years in life expectancy between 2019 and 2021.

And an array of other conditions continued to pose grave risks to Americans’ health. Deaths from flu, pneumonia, perinatal conditions, kidney disease, nutritional deficiencies and birth defects all rose in 2022, the agency reported, partially offsetting the fall in Covid-19 deaths.

In 2022, life expectancy at birth was 77.5 years, compared with 76.4 years in 2021. A fall in Covid-19 deaths accounts for more than 80 percent of that increase. In 2019, before the pandemic, life expectancy at birth was 78.8. Drops in deaths from heart disease, unintentional injuries (a category that includes traffic deaths and drug overdoses), cancer and homicide also contributed to the rise in life expectancy, the C.D.C. reported.

Some demographic differences also narrowed in 2022, the data show.

The gains were especially pronounced among Native Americans and Alaska Natives, who were especially hard hit by Covid-19, losing 6.2 years of life expectancy between 2019 and 2021. In 2022, they regained 2.3 years of those years, although their life expectancy of 67.9 remains lower than that of other demographic groups.

Life expectancy rose by 2.2 years for the Hispanic population and 1.6 years for Black Americans. The increases were more modest for Asian and white Americans, who gained 1.0 and 0.8 years of life expectancy, respectively, in 2022.

A longstanding gap in life expectancy between the sexes widened during the pandemic, which brought a higher mortality rate in men than in women. In 2021, women could be expected to live six years longer than men, but that gap closed slightly, to 5.4 years, in 2022.

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