American life expectancy is dropping — and it’s not all covid’s fault

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from The Washington Post,

Last fall, when federal statistics showed life expectancy had fallen for Americans in 2021 for a second year in a row, it was clear that the devastating covid-19 pandemic was the immediate cause. The coronavirus took the lives of more than 1 million Americans. Life expectancy fell by more than two years — and by twice as much among Hispanic, Black and Native Americans — setting the country back by two decades and producing the most abrupt decline in life expectancy since World War II.

But plotting life expectancy in the United States against that of other wealthy countries reveals three dark insights: Our life spans lag behind those of our peers; our life expectancy was already more or less flat, not growing; and most other countries bounced back from covid-19 in the second year of the pandemic, while we went into further decline.

Ten years ago, long before the world was hit by covid-19, we served as the chair and study director for a landmark report that warned about the “U.S. health disadvantage,” a gap in the health and survival of Americans relative to residents of other high-income countries. Released by a committee convened by the National Research Council and Institute of Medicine, the report showed the United States had the lowest life expectancy among peer countries, and higher morbidity and mortality rates for dozens of causes. The disparity had been growing since the 1950s, by some measures, and was pervasive — affecting both sexes, young and old, rich and poor, and Americans of all races and ethnicities.

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