Americans born in 2021 can expect to live for just 76.1 years — the lowest life expectancy has been since 1996, according to a new government analysis published Wednesday. This is the biggest two-year decline — 2.7 years in total — in almost 100 years.
The Covid-19 pandemic is the primary cause of the decline. However, increases in the number of people dying from overdoses and accidents is also a significant factor.
American Indian and Alaskan Native people have experienced a particularly precipitous drop in life expectancy since 2019, going from 71.8 to 65.2 years. This kind of loss is similar to the plunge seen for all Americans after the Spanish Flu, said Robert Anderson, the chief of the mortality statistics branch of the National Center for Health Statistics, a division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
...This year’s life expectancy figure is 0.9 years lower than last year’s. Covid-19 accounted for about half of the decline, and a category encompassing accidents and unintentional injuries is responsible for another 16%. That category includes overdoses; in fact, about half of the unintentional injury deaths in this analysis were due to overdoses.
Not every demographic group saw the same changes, the researchers found. Asian-Americans have the highest life expectancy of any group — 83.5 years — and only saw a 0.1 year decline from 2020. Meanwhile, Black Americans lost 0.7 years between 2020 to 2021.
But American Indian and Native Americans saw the largest loss of life expectancy of all — 1.9 years less than 2020’s life expectancy, and 6.6 years less than 2019’s. They also had the lowest life expectancy among the groups studied. (Historically, Native Americans’ life expectancy has been staying level even in years when the life expectancy of the entire population did increase, one recent study found.)