(UnitedVoice.com) – Most young people dream about living a good, long, and happy life. When America started keeping life expectancy records in the 1860s, you might be surprised to learn that most people didn’t, on average, make it to 40 years old. Today that would be woefully unacceptable.
As time and medical advancements improved, life expectancy followed. For over 160 years, the average age at which people died increased from one generation to the next. Yet, in 2020, something unexpected happened — life expectancy dropped. Then COVID-19 hit in March 2020, and it decreased again. Now, life expectancy is at its lowest level in 25 years. Here’s the catch, COVID is only marginally part of the reason for the drop.
Life Expectancy Dropped Through 2015
The average life expectancy in 1860 was only 39.4 years of age. By 2020, it was 78.9 years. So, why such a massive jump over that time? The most prominent reason is infant and child mortality rates have dropped dramatically over the last 160 years. Additionally, medical advancements and improved living standards help people live longer than ever.
Still, during those 160 years, life expectancy has dropped three times. The first time was during the Civil War, the second was during the First World War and Spanish Flu epidemic, and the third was after 2015. So, what contributed to the drop in more recent times? It’s likely due to societal issues. People sit for work, are vastly more sedentary than in years past, eat unbalanced diets, and have higher medical expenses. Drug use and suicides have also increased.
What Role Did COVID Play?
Over the last two years, one study says the nation’s life expectancy dropped even more during COVID. The analysis noted that life expectancy in the United States declined from 78.86 years in 2019 to 76.99 in 2020. In 2021, it dropped again to 76.6 years for a total net loss of 2.26 years.
The study concluded that in 2020, the most significant decreases in life expectancy were among Hispanic and black populations. In 2021, only the white population experienced a decline. Additionally, overall life expectancy dropped more in 2021 than in 2020.
Professor of population health and health equity at Virginia Commonwealth University, Dr. Steven Woolf, told NPR that most people who died in 2021 were in the prime of their lives. This result is the core reason life expectancy dropped to its lowest in 25 years.
So, will the numbers reverse themselves?
If looking back is an indicator, it’s normal for life expectancy to drop for short periods and then rebound, especially if there are wars or pandemics. Still, there are no guarantees. Lifestyle choices, medical care, and other factors all play a role in these statistics.
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