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US Life Expectancy Rises after Drops Linked to COVID-19

In this file photo, a couple walks through a park at sunset, March 10, 2021, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel, File)
In this file photo, a couple walks through a park at sunset, March 10, 2021, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel, File)
US Life Expectancy Rises after Drops Linked to COVID-19
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Life expectancy in the United States rose by about one year in 2022 following earlier decreases linked to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Life expectancy predicts the average number of years a baby born in a given year can expect to live. Federal data showed that in 2022, U.S. life expectancy rose from 76.4 years to 77.5 years.

Researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said 2022’s increase came largely because of disappearing COVID-19 cases.

For many years, life expectancy for Americans generally rose a little bit nearly every year. But about 10 years ago, the rate flattened and even decreased in some years. Those drops were blamed on drug overdose deaths and suicides.

The number of U.S. suicides reached an all-time high last year, a separate CDC report found. The national suicide rate also saw its highest level since 1941. U.S. drug overdose deaths rose slightly in 2022 after much larger increases during the COVID-19 pandemic.

During the pandemic, U.S. life expectancy dropped from 78 years and 10 months in 2019 to 77 years in 2020. Then, in 2021, the rate dropped further, to 76 years and 5 months.

Elizabeth Arias is a researcher for the CDC who worked on the latest report. She told The Associated Press the U.S. life expectancy rate was clearly hurt by COVID-19 and will take "some time before we're back to where we were in 2019.”

But Arias noted there were several favorable developments. For example, "all the groups by race and sex experienced increases in life expectancy," she said.

Steven Woolf, a life expectancy researcher at Virginia Commonwealth University, said he expects the U.S. to one day get back to pre-pandemic levels. But he added, “That is not a great place to be.”

Life expectancy in 2022 increased the most for American Indian and Alaska Native non-Hispanic newborns. The rate went from 65.6 to 67.9, followed by an increase of 2.2 years for Hispanic newborns, from 77.8 to 80.

The life expectancy for Black non-Hispanic Americans increased by 1.6 years, from 71.2 to 72.8. Researchers noted that people in that group were more severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Life expectancy increased by 1 year for Asian non-Hispanic babies to 84.5 years, and by 0.8 years for White non-Hispanic babies, to 77.5.

Life expectancy in the U.S. remains longer for females. In 2020, the difference between the two sexes reached 6 years, a level not seen since 1996. In 2022, the difference narrowed to 5.4 years, down from 5.8 years in 2021.

Life expectancy in the U.S. continues to be lower than that of numerous other countries. And the latest report shows that the U.S. did not rebound as quickly after the pandemic as some other countries, including France, Italy, Spain and Sweden.

I’m Bryan Lynn.

The Associated Press and Reuters reported on this story. Bryan Lynn adapted the reports for VOA Learning English.


Words in This Story

rebound – v. to recover from a difficult or frustrating situation