The average life expectancy of Americans dropped by 18 months in 2020, its largest one-year drop since in World War II, primarily due to fatalities from the coronavirus pandemic and the rising toll of the opioid epidemic, NBC News reports, with the drop impacting Black and Hispanic Americans disproportionately.
While Donald Trump publicly declared that the coronavirus was no more deadly than a typical flu and his son-in-law Jared Kushner and then White House adviser Kellyanne Conway were in charge of responding to the opioid epidemic, their incompetence in dealing with those respective issues reflected directly on the lives of Americans.
According to the study, 75% of the drop was due to the coronavirus pandemic, with the remainder largely due to the opioid pandemic. More than 93,000 people died of drug overdoses in 2020, a 27% increase over the previous year. Other factors included increased fatalities due to diabetes and homicides, accounting for 5.5% of the decrease.
Life expectancy at birth for all Americans–meaning the length of time someone born in 2020 can expect to live–fell to 77.3 years, with life expectancy among Black and Hispanic people dropping the most. Life expectancy for Hispanic Americans dropped to 78.8 from 81.8, while the numbers for Black Americans dropped to 71.8 from 74.7. Non-Hispanic white Americans saw their life expectancy drop to 77.6 from 78.8.
According to Irma Elo, chair of the sociology department and a research associate at the Population Aging Research Center at the University of Pennsylvania, the particular impact the pandemic had on Hispanic and Black Americans “reflects the inequalities that were present before the pandemic that have to do with unequal access to health care and racial and ethnic disparities in health more generally, which largely have to do with socioeconomic disadvantages.”