Life expectancy in the United States dropped for the second consecutive year, reaching the lowest level since 1996, according to a government report released Wednesday.
The National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) report, based on provisional 2021 data, states that the average life expectancy for a child born in 2021 is 76.1 years old, a decline of 2.7 years from 2019 data. The report attributes the sharp decline largely to COVID and unintentional injuries, which include drug overdoses.
“It’s a dismal situation,” University of Pennsylvania demographer Samuel Preston told ABC News. “It was bad before and it’s gotten worse.”
Life expectancy dropped nearly a year from the 77-year life expectancy of 2020, and nearly three years from the 2019 level. The disparity between men and women has also grown. The life expectancy for women in 2021 is 79.1, a drop from 79.9 in 2020, and the life expectancy for men is 73.2 years, a drop from 74.2 in 2020.
The report cites COVID as a major contributing factor to the declining life expectancy, accounting for 50% of the negative contribution, and “unintentional injuries” accounting for 15.9%. According to NCHS Mortality Statistics Chief Robert Anderson, the majority of the deaths claimed as “unintentional injuries” are drug overdoses.
“We saw increases for some other causes of death and of course increases in drug overdose deaths,” Anderson said, “but overall COVID-19 was the primary factor.”
In addition to COVID and drug overdoses, other contributing factors include chronic liver disease, heart disease, suicide, and cirrhosis.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data from 2021 show that 107,622 Americans died of drug overdoses, The Daily Wire previously reported, which accounts for the largest number on record. Overdose deaths increased during the pandemic, even though they had been declining prior to COVID.
Other factors that could contribute to increasing drug overdose deaths are lax border policies, a factor Republicans have been drawing attention to at the state and federal levels in recent months.
Another major factor, heart disease, has been the leading cause of death in the United States for decades. The CDC reports that around 697,000 people died of heart disease in 2020 alone, making it the leading cause of death in America. The same report says that each year in America, 805,000 people have a heart attack.
The report notes that deaths from categories including infant deaths and drug overdoses require investigation, meaning they could be undercounted. The NCHS receives death certificates and makes revisions to death certificates for up to six months after the calendar year.