American life expectancy at lowest for second year in a row

Along with cancer and heart disease, the Covid-19 pandemic is responsible for half of US deaths in 2021.

Covid, cancer, heart disease, drug use and overdoses… For the second year in a row, Americans’ life expectancy has fallen, reaching its lowest level since 1996, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and from the National Center for Preventive Health Statistics reported by CNN.

Life expectancy in the U.S. is on average two and a half years shorter in 2021, with Americans generally living to be 76.4 years old, according to the latest data.

“What we’re seeing in terms of mortality patterns is largely due to the Covid-19 pandemic,” Robert Anderson, head of mortality statistics at the National Center for Preventive Health Statistics, told US media.

Covid-19 is the cause of one in eight deaths in 2021 compared to one in ten deaths in 2020. The pandemic thus remains the third leading cause of death in the country, after heart disease, the leading factor in mortality and cancer, the second factor. Together, these three causes are responsible for half of the deaths in the United States in 2021.

“Covid-19 has aggravated many factors”

Drug overdoses are also wreaking havoc in the country and have risen significantly throughout the pandemic, reaching record highs in 2021. Nearly 107,000 people died of drug overdoses last year. Statistics considered “tragic but not surprising” by Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Use.

“The pandemic has had a compounding effect on an already devastating overdose crisis in the United States. Covid-19 has exacerbated many stressors in society that make people more vulnerable to drug use,” she explains to CNN.

However, this increase in mortality, partly amplified by the pandemic, is not irreversible, the researchers believe. “This trend will need to be closely monitored in the coming years. But it is entirely possible that things will return to normal, we may end up with life expectancy returning to what it was before Covid,” projects Robert Anderson. How long it will take for the effects of the pandemic to wear off remains to be seen.

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