Life expectancy in the US could drop by up to three years due to COVID-19, according to a new report.
Despite life expectancy rising in recent years, The Wall Street Journal reported the coronavirus pandemic could cause a decline of two to three years in life expectancy in 2020 due to the virus becoming the third-leading cause of death in the US this year.
The coronavirus is believed to have been in the US as early as December 2019, but forced the country to shutdown back in March, including shutting down schools, businesses, and forcing social distancing policies and mask-wearing. It has killed more than 320,000 people country wide and the second wave could be deadly than the first.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that life expectancy for the US population in 2109 was 78.8 years, an increase of 0.1 from 2018. The slight bump was attributed to death rates in heart disease and cancer decreasing, which are the leading causes of death in the US. Suicides also declined for the first time in 14 years, according to the report.
Robert Anderson, the head of the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics mortality-statistic branch, told The Journal that the predictions on 2020 figures are based on observations that focused through August, which found that life expectancy dropped by 11/2 years.
“We’ve had a lot of deaths added since August, so I think a drop of two to three years for 2020 isn’t out of the question,” Anderson told the paper.
From the report:
Covid-19 is expected to be the third leading cause of death in 2020. As of Monday, it had killed more than 319,000 people in the U.S., according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Last year, heart disease killed about 659,000 people, cancer killed nearly 600,000 people, and deaths from accidents—the third leading cause of death—totaled about 173,000, according to CDC figures. More than 2.85 million people died in the U.S. last year, the highest number on record.
The projected decrease in life expectancy would be the largest decrease since 1943, according to Anderson, when fatalities from World War II resulted in a 2.9 year decrease.
Kenneth M. Johnson, a demographer at the University of New Hampshire, said the COVID-19 pandemic will cause deaths to outpace births in more than half of US counties in 2020. It would be the first time in US history, according to the report.
In addition, the US general fertility rate dropped to record lows last year, and with a weakened economy and continue health conners (despite a vaccine being distributed), it could cause women to think twice about having children.
“We’ve got people dying and hospital rooms jammed,” Johnson said. “Who’s going to want to have a baby?”