Life expectancy in the United States is on the decline. The number of deaths from drug overdoses and homicides is on the rise, and a decline in the life expectancy of white women is particularly concerning. However, there is hope. There is new research on how to improve the overall health of the United States. The data can be found at the National Research Council and the National Academies Press. However, there is a long way to go before we can be assured of a better future for everyone in America.
Covid-19 increases life expectancy
Typically, changes in life expectancy in the USA move at incremental tenths of a year, with the average American expected to live 0.1 more years in 2019 than they did in 2018. This trend was likely to continue, with better access to health care contributing to a marginal but long-term increase in life expectancy. But a coronavirus pandemic has upended the steady trend.
Researchers examined COVID-19’s effects on life expectancy in the United States. They compared projected 2020 life expectancy values with actual results. They found that, while the overall decline in life expectancy was minimal, it was higher in Black and Latino people than it was in White individuals. The estimated decline in life expectancy in the US population would be a loss of 0.68 years for the average White American, and 3.05 years for Black and Latino individuals.
Homicides and drug overdose deaths increase life expectancy
The increase in homicides and drug overdose deaths in the United States is linked to an increasingly unhealthy nation. CDC reports that by 2020, homicides and drug overdoses will account for nearly one-third of unintentional injury deaths. While the increase is linked to opioid abuse, there is another explanation. The rise in drug overdose deaths has been linked to economic stress and changes in the availability of substance use disorder treatments.
The deaths due to coronavirus disease will surpass 600,000 in the USA by 2021. Last year’s Covid-19 pandemic reduced life expectancy by 18 months, making it the largest annual decline since World War II. During the same period, deaths from cancer will continue to increase. And deaths related to drug overdoses are increasing, too. Despite these increases, life expectancy is still lower than it was in 2006.
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The income ladder has a significant impact on life expectancy
A recent study by Chetty linked 1.4 billion tax returns to Social Security Administration mortality data to examine whether the income ladder had a significant impact on life expectancy. It found that the income ladder consistently affects life expectancy. In every state, every rung up the income ladder added at least one year to life expectancy. The income gap between the rich and poor was ten years in Washington, D.C., while the difference was just 0.03% for men and 0.003 years for women.
In the USA, life expectancy varies significantly by income. For individuals in the lowest income quartile, it varies by 4.5 years. Meanwhile, the life expectancy of individuals in the highest income quartile is higher by nearly five years. Several other factors such as smoking and access to health care are related to life expectancy, but these are small. Inequality and labor market conditions also seem to have little impact on life expectancy.
The longest sustained downward trend since 1915-1918
For several decades now, the US has seen its life expectancy decline annually. Between 1999 and 2015, this trend accelerated in White non-Hispanic males. Deaths related to despair, alcohol-related liver disease, and accidental poisoning have all increased. A new study published in PNAS shows that life expectancy declined among Black and white Americans without a college degree, while it increased in college-educated individuals. While the long-term effects of this trend aren’t clear, they are troubling.
While the number of deaths from the flu spiked in 1917, other factors contributed to this decline. Alzheimer’s disease, strokes, and heart disease, all contributed to a decline in life expectancy. Although death rates from these causes increased dramatically, the overall trend was steady, and it was not statistically significant. The CDC issues a health statistics report each December and integrates this data with the Medicare database. Since then, the data from the survey has been revised upwards.
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