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CDC Reports That U.S. Life Expectancy at Birth Has Dropped One Year in 2021

September 14, 2022

According to the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) published on August 31, 2022, the United States' "life expectancy at birth" has declined about one year from 2020 to 2021. The new provisional data published by the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) showed a decline in life expectancy from 77.0 to 76.1 years in 2021. This is the lowest U.S. "life expectancy at birth" since 1996. 

The CDC's National Center for Health Statistics reports that there was a 1.8-year drop in life expectancy back in 2020, followed by a 0.9-year drop in 2021. These were the two largest drops in life expectance since 1921-1923. The life expectancy data were presented in a report called "Provisional Life Expectancy Estimates for 2021.

This report also showed that non-Hispanic American Indian-Alaskan Native people (AIAN) saw the largest drop in life expectancy in 2021, which was 1.9 years. In 2021, AIAN people had a life expectancy at birth of 65.2 years which is equal to the life expectancy of the entire U.S. population back in 1944. Tragically, the AIAN life expectancy has declined over 6 years from 2019 to 2021.

Non-Hispanic caucasian people had the second most significant decline in life expectancy in 2021. Life expectancy for non-Hispanic caucasians fell from 77.4 in 2020 to 76.4 in 2021. 

Non-Hispanic African-Americans suffered the third-largest decline from 71.5 years in 2020 to 70.8 in 2021.

Non-Hispanic Asian people's life expectancy also fell 0.1 years to 83.5 years, which is the highest life expectancy of any race/ethnic group.

Why has Life Expectancy Fallen in the United States?

Although declines in life expectancy in the past three years were mostly driven by COVID-19 deaths, 16% of the reason why life expectancy has dropped has been attributed to an increase in the number of deaths stemming from accidents and unintentional injuries. Drug overdose fatalities accounted for about 50% of all unintentional injury deaths. There were more than 100,000 overdose deaths in a one-year period ending in March 2022, according to the NCHS. The other causes of the decline in life expectancy include heart disease, chronic liver disease and cirrhosis, and suicide. Unintentional injuries accounted for 19% of fatalities in adult men and 14.8% for women. 

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