Wed. Jul 17th, 2024

The startling drop in US life expectancy

By nr39r Apr22,2024

Specifically as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and the opioid crisis

the American health authorities made the announcement on August 31, 2022, that the life expectancy of Americans had declined by roughly a year in 2021. This was after the life expectancy of Americans had already decreased by a year and a half in 2020. There is presently a life expectancy of 76.1 years for a person who was born in the United States in the year 2021, as stated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). When the decreases of 2020 and 2021 are added together, the total number of years that have decreased is 2.7, which is the largest decrease in a century (2).

This is the greatest discrepancy between men and women’s life expectancies since 1996 (3). Not only has the life expectancy of Americans decreased, but the gap between men and women’s life expectancies has also grown, going from 5.7 years in 2020 to 5.9 years in 2021. In the year 2020, the average life expectancy for women was 79.9 years, however it has since increased to 79.1 years right now. This number decreased for men from 74.2 years in the year 2020 to 73.2 years in the year 2021. In France, the average life expectancy for women is 85.5 years, while the average life expectancy for males is 79.4 years (4). There is a significant difference between the life expectancy of men and women at birth, with women having a life expectancy that is four to seven years increased. The scientist Richard Béliveau suggests that one of the reasons for this disparity is the increased effectiveness of the immune system in females as they age (5).

It was observed that the population of Indigenous and Alaska Native people in the United States experienced the greatest decrease in life expectancy in the year 2021. In comparison to the year 2020, they had a decline in their life expectancy of 1.9 years, bringing it down to only 65.2 years. This life expectancy is comparable to that of the population of the United States in the year 1944. The life expectancy of whites decreased by one year in 2021, bringing it down to 76.4 years, while the life expectancy of African Americans decreased by 0.7 years during the same year, bringing it down to 70.8 years (6) by the end of the year. The ethnic group that continues to have the highest life expectancy is the Asian American community. By the year 2021, this had reached 83.5 years. At 77.7 years, the life expectancy of Hispanic Americans was the second highest of any other group in the United States (7).

There are significant variations in life expectancy from one state to the next. Those who live in states that are further north in the United States have a greater rate than those who live in the South. By way of illustration, the life expectancy of people living in Vermont, Minnesota, and Washington ranged from 78.4 years to 80.7 years in the year 2020. To put that into perspective, the life expectancy of people in the states of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama ranged from 71.9 years to 74.8 years during the same year (8).

It is the first factor, Covid-19.

The CDC has said that the pandemic of the COVID-19 virus is mostly responsible for the decline in life expectancy in the United States since 2019. In 2020, deaths caused by viruses were responsible for three quarters of the drop that was seen, and in 2021, they were responsible for half of the decline (9). By the year 2022, the pandemic produced by the COVID-19 virus had already resulted in the deaths of more than one million people in the United States, out of a total population of around 330 million (10). To put that into perspective, the pandemic was responsible for sixty thousand deaths in France in 2022, out of a total population of sixty-seven million (11).

A number of reasons are responsible for the increased mortality rate that is associated with Covid in the United States. The first factor is the poor overall health of the American population, which is characterized by a high prevalence of obesity, diabetes, and hypertension. In the aftermath of a contamination with Covid-19, these are significant risk factors that can lead to problems (12).

The absence of a social protection system that is applicable to the entire population is the second factor. There is a sizeable segment of the population in the United States that does not have access to medical care or sick leave. Working settings that are favorable to exposure to the virus are created as a result of these factors. In addition, the ineffectiveness of union organizations in the United States makes it difficult for workers to advocate for improved working conditions (13).

It has become significantly more difficult for the government to implement preventative measures that are necessary for controlling the pandemic, such as mandatory vaccination, the wearing of masks, or confinement, as a result of the political polarization that has occurred throughout the country, which has been combined with the skepticism that a portion of the population has towards science (14). It is noteworthy that the Republican leaders of Florida and Texas declined the requirement to wear a mask, putting the protection of individual liberties ahead of the protection of public health. An further point to consider is that vaccination programs have not been carried out with the same level of vigor in every state. This led to a situation in which fewer than 68 percent of Americans had received all of their vaccinations in 2022, in contrast to the roughly 79 percent of French people and the 83 percent of Canadians (15).

The pandemic, on its own, does not provide an explanation for the decrease in life expectancy that has occurred in the United States. It is true that deaths associated with Covid-19 accounted for three-quarters of this drop in the year 2020, but only half of it in the year 2021. Around fifteen percent of the decrease that was reported in 2021 can be attributed to the rise in the number of deaths that were associated with “accidents and unintentional injuries,” which includes overdoses and accidents that were related to firearms (16). Throughout the course of the epidemic, the number of overdoses significantly climbed, eventually reaching record levels in 2021. During that year, overdoses claimed the lives of about 107,000 people. Dr. Nora Volkow, who is the head of the National Institute on Drug Use, has stated that the pandemic is having an effect that is magnifying the opioid problem which is currently occurring. The fact of the matter is that “Covid-19 has exacerbated many stressors in society that make people more vulnerable to drug use (17)”

Several experts, on the other hand, argue that the pandemic and the opioid epidemic are not the root cause of the problem; rather, they have exacerbated the cracks in the American health system, which is the main culprit behind the reduction in life expectancy in the United States of America. Journalist Claire Klobucista asserts that the health care system in the United States of America is ranked very poorly in comparison to the health care systems of other Western nations that ensure equitable access to medical treatments and give universal health coverage. The limited availability of health care and the widespread poverty that exists among the United States population have had a substantial influence on the number of deaths that have occurred as a result of the pandemic and the opioid crisis, particularly among marginalized groups (18).

However, there is a glimmer of hope at the end of the tunnel since Democratic President Joe Biden and the administration of the United States of America have already started taking measures to combat this concerning trend. As an illustration, the Inflation Reduction Act includes a number of clauses that are considered to be landmarks and are intended to reduce health inequities. A further announcement was made by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that it will implement extensive adjustments in response to criticism of its blunders during the epidemic. However, the specifics of these improvements are still unknown at this time (19).

It is recommended that you look at the analysis section for a comprehensive list of our current affairs bulletins. Sherbrooke University students who are enrolled in the Applied Political Studies program are the ones who are responsible for writing these bulletins. Research and writing are both under the direction of Serge Gaudreau, who serves as our editor-in-chief.

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