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Researchers: US life expectancy to drop 1.1 years due to COVID-19

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Posted at 4:55 PM, Jan 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-15 16:55:09-05

The average life expectancy in the US is estimated to drop by 1.13 years due to the impact of the coronavirus on the overall health of Americans, a pair of university researchers concluded in a soon-to-be-published study.

Theresa Andrasfay of USC and Noreen Goldman of Princeton co-authored the study. The researchers concluded that the impact of the coronavirus on life expectancy for Blacks and Latinos could be three to four times worse. Goldman and Andrasfar said that the virus could reverse over 10 years of progress closing the gap between white and Black life expectancy in the US.

The overall life expectancy in the US is expected to fall from 78.61 to 77.48 years. For white Americans, the life expectancy is expected to drop from 78.52 to 77.84 years. For Black Americans, the coronavirus is expected to drop their life expectancy from 74.88 years to 72.78 years. For Latino Americans, life expectancy is expected to decline from 81.82 years to 78.77 years.

“Potential explanations for the disproportionate burden of deaths among Black and Latino individuals reflect underlying social disparities that have been documented for decades and amplified during the current pandemic,” the researchers write. “These groups are more likely than whites to hold low-paying jobs with little autonomy, often in industries that have suffered the largest job losses during the pandemic, creating exceptionally high unemployment rates for both groups and likely loss of health insurance.”

According to CDC data of coronavirus deaths through October 15, the virus disproportionately killed Blacks and Hispanics. The CDC said that Blacks accounted for 18.7% of all coronavirus-related deaths, despite making up 12.5% of the population. Hispanics made up 24.2% of coronavirus deaths despite making up 18.5% of the US population.

While the worst of the coronavirus is expected to subside this year, the virus could have a long-term impact on life expectancy, the researchers caution.

“In light of the expectation that the COVID-19 pandemic will subside with the development of vaccines, treatments, and long-term behavioral changes to reduce exposure, no cohort may ever experience a reduction in life expectancy of the magnitude attributed to COVID-19 in 2020,” the researchers write. “At the same time, however, a rapid return to pre−COVID-19 life expectancy is unlikely, due to the anticipated continued presence of the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2, long-term detrimental health impacts for those who recovered from the virus, deaths from other health conditions that were precipitated by COVID-19, and social and economic losses resulting from the pandemic.”

To read the research, click here.

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Data from The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.