The life expectancy at birth in the United States declined by 1.5 years to 77.3 in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic, the lowest level since 2003 and the largest one-year drop since World War II, according to government data issued on Wednesday.
COVID-19 deaths contributed to about 74 percent of the decline in life expectancy among the general U.S. population, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics found. Another 11 percent of the decline can be attributed to increases in deaths from accidents or unintentional injuries, including drug overdose deaths.
Among racial groups, life expectancy declined by 3 years for the Hispanic population to 78.8 years, by 2.9 years for the non-Hispanic Black population to 71.8 years and 1.2 years for the non-Hispanic white population to 77.6 years.
Hispanic men, in particular, saw the greatest drop of 3.7 years.
Health experts said the life expectancy data is further proof of the disproportionate effect of the pandemic on communities of color.
"The numbers are devastating," Chantel Martin, an assistant professor of epidemiology with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, told the USA Today. "The declines that we see, particularly among Hispanic and non-Hispanic Black population, are massive."
African Americans were hospitalized with COVID-19 at 2.9 times the rate of white Americans and died at two times the rate, CDC data showed, noting Latinos were hospitalized at 2.8 times the rate and died at 2.3 times the rate of white Americans, while Native Americans were hospitalized at 3.3 times the rate and died at 2.4 times the rate.
Between 1942 and 1943 during World War II, life expectancy in the United States declined 2.9 years, according to the USA Today report.