US Life Expectancy Declines

Another empirical indication of the toll of the pandemic.

The NYT reports: A Grim Measure of Covid’s Toll: Life Expectancy Drops Sharply in U.S.

Thursday’s data gives the first full picture of the pandemic’s effect on American life spans, which dropped to 77.8 years from 78.8 years in 2019. It also showed a deepening of racial and ethnic disparities: Life expectancy of the Black population declined by 2.7 years in the first half of 2020, slicing away 20 years of gains. The life expectancy gap between Black and white Americans, which had been narrowing, is now at six years, the widest it has been since 1998.

Of course, once the pandemic subsides, the numbers should rebound. But this is just another reminder of the deeply tragic and profoundly nature of the current crisis.

The drop brought life expectancy to the lowest level since 2006. The last major decline was 2.9 years between 1942 and 1943, after the United States entered World War II, Dr. Arias said.

And these data confirm, yet again, that this was not just the common flu and that those who downplayed and politicized public health policy were wrong to do so and helped these results come to pass.

The effects on Black and Hispanic communities are also indicative of the uneven nature of services in the United States:

Over all, the death rate for Black Americans with Covid-19 was almost two times higher than for white Americans as of late January, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; the death rate for Hispanics was 2.3 times higher than for white Americans.

The 2.7-year drop in life expectancy for African-Americans from January through June of last year was the largest decline, followed by a 1.9-year drop for Hispanic Americans and a 0.8-year drop for white Americans.

This is reflective in both treatment for Covid, but also long-standing healthcare-related issues:

Dr. Dominic Mack, a professor of family medicine in Atlanta, said he did not expect the gap between white and Black life expectancy to shrink immediately once the pandemic ends. That is partly because Black Americans are disproportionately afflicted by chronic diseases like diabetes and hypertension, and because, like all Americans, they stopped getting routine medical care during the pandemic, quite likely worsening their health.

“The issue you have is not just the Covid, but the medical system fallout from the Covid,” said Dr. Mack, who also leads the National Covid-19 Resiliency Network at the Morehouse School of Medicine. “Once that’s corrected, the population still has chronic diseases that probably festered during this time, went untreated.”

The piece notes that some of the decline in life expectancy can also be linked to the continuing opioid crisis, which is part of a longer-term trend.

FILED UNDER: COVID-19, Health, US Politics
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. Kathy says:

    Of course, once the pandemic subsides, the numbers should rebound.

    Yes, they will, but by how much?

    Long haul COVID (or post-COVID syndrome), plus delayed care, plus loss of income, plus added stress, plus who knows what all else, don’t expect them to rebound to pre-pandemic levels soon.

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  2. CSK says:

    @Kathy:
    All of which are probably exacerbating the ongoing opioid crisis, as ST noted as a factor in the decline in life expectancy.

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  3. Kathy says:

    @CSK:

    Meantime, given the paltry numbers of vaccines likely to be available in the foreseeable future, I intend to get a passport once I’m done with the hernia issue, and travel north for a couple of shots. Ironically, Vegas seems most likely.

    Of course, no insurer will pay for that, and it will blow my vacation budget for next year.

    I’m trying to formulate a law where once you decide not to wait for proper channels and try an end run around them of some kind, the proper channels finally respond a short time later, or even while you’re doing the end run.

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  4. Kathy says:

    On other COVID news, I just scored negative on an antigen test.

    This one takes a swab from the nose, then mixes it with something in a vial, then gets tested right there on a plastic antigen test thingy (that’s a technical term).

    I don’t know how much to trust antigen tests. as I understand, you have either virus or spikes or other virus fragment, and if there are antibodies present they’ll bind to it and indicate “positive.” Therefore even if they are 100% accurate, they would not detect recent infections. it takes days to weeks for the body to produce antibodies.

  5. Gustopher says:

    @Kathy: I would expect there to be a crackdown on vaccine tourism if it ever becomes a big thing — however, since we are going to want to vaccinate our undocumented immigrants, I don’t see how that’s going to work.

    As vaccine supply opens up, I expect that you would be able to go to nearly any state with your valid visa, and then pretend to be an illegal immigrant. Which would be kind of hysterical.

    I don’t endorse this plan, and would be genuinely bothered if you did it now while vaccines are in short supply and it really is a zero-sum game (you would be taking a vaccination away from someone else), but I expect that in a few months it won’t be such an issue.

    And it’s one of those “well, what do you expect people to do, just sit over there and politely suffer and die?” moments. If you can’t get it where you are, you’re going to have to get it somehow.

    I hope the Biden administration is working on how to solve the covid situation on our southern border. It’s a global problem, and if we don’t get a global solution, we’re going to keep getting variants and one of them will get past the vaccines.

  6. Kathy says:

    @Gustopher:

    That latest COVID case at the office I mentioned, word is they wound up hospitalized. That’s scary. Another, older case, the person in question has still not returned to work (it’s been weeks).

    I’m aware of the ethical problem. Overall, it seems to approximate the free rider issue. We’re not talking about millions of people flocking to Nevada to get vaccinated. At most a few thousands. Given the US is producing a lot of vaccines, at most you may delay others for days or a couple of weeks, not months.

    Still, how would I feel if I found out I bumped someone from the schedule, and they contracted COVID in the days they waited for their chance? That’s unlikely. Immune reaction takes weeks to mount up. Chances are they’d have gotten COVID even with a vaccine (it has happened).

    So I don’t see much downside.

    I could claim I’ve put in thousands of dollars into Nevada’s economy between 2008 and 2015. It’s even true. I’ve paid for hotels and food. I’ve lost at the casinos. I’ve tipped a lot of people. I’ve gone shopping. I’ve paid for shows. I’ve even paid for alcohol, and that’s not easy.

    We’ll see. I’m talking mid-March to early April. Things may change by then.

  7. Gustopher says:

    @Kathy: As I wrote:

    it’s one of those “well, what do you expect people to do, just sit over there and politely suffer and die?” moments. If you can’t get it where you are, you’re going to have to get it somehow.

    It’s a bad situation all around, and I can’t really blame someone for trying to protect themselves.

    Just as I don’t blame illegal immigrants for coming across the border to get a better life for themselves and their kids.

    You gotta do what’cha gotta do.

    Good luck. There are enough people gaming the system that you’ll just be noise? I hate the “everyone else is cheating, so if I don’t cheat, then I’m a chump” philosophy, but I’d rather be a live cheater than a dead chump.

  8. CSK says:

    @Kathy:
    Massachusetts opened its registration for those 65 and over today. The website crashed early this morning. All the locations that are providing the vaccine appear to be booked through mid-May.

    I’m wondering if all those states in which it’s easy (relatively) to get a shot are those in which substantial numbers of people are refusing the vaccine because they fear that Bill Gates is either trying to plant a microchip in them or he’s trying to sterilize them. I would think sterility would not be much of a concern for those over 65, but…

  9. Kathy says:

    The latest numbers for Mexico are around 1,060,000 vaccines given, mostly first doses. This started on Dec. 24th, and in almost three months we’ve covered less than 1% of the population.

    It’s not all the government’s fault, as around 75% of vaccine production thus far, according to news reports, has wound up in richer countries. But other Latin american countries, like Chile, are doing far better, at around 2.5 million doses so far.

    Add how badly the pandemic’s been managed here. There’s hardly any testing, little tracing, halfhearted lock downs, lots of overcapacity cheating at many businesses, especially restaurants, no national mask mandate, and a trump-wannabe idiot running the show. So three’s plenty of blame for the government as well.

  10. Gustopher says:

    @CSK:

    Massachusetts opened its registration for those 65 and over today. The website crashed early this morning. All the locations that are providing the vaccine appear to be booked through mid-May.

    We are either going to have to increase the spots to get vaccines (and supply) or we are going to have a very bad time for the next year.

    I’m wondering if all those states in which it’s easy (relatively) to get a shot are those in which substantial numbers of people are refusing the vaccine because they fear that Bill Gates is either trying to plant a microchip in them or he’s trying to sterilize them.

    Kathy should absolutely go to a crazy state and get one of their vaccine doses. I was going to suggest it, but figured that this would just happen because of supply and demand. Medium crazy, as I expect the hatred of foreigners will lead to some state declaring that only citizens with a valid birth certificate can get their Bill Gates Microchip shot.

    We are such a stupid nation.

  11. Kathy says:

    @Gustopher:

    I figure the crazy (Trump) states have higher rates of transmission. I’d just as soon not risk that.

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  12. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Gustopher:

    however, since we are going to want to vaccinate our undocumented immigrants,

    I don’t see any particular reason to believe that most people who will oppose medical vaccine tourism are going to particularly care about whether undocumented immigrants get vaccinated. Half the country still thinks it’s just the flu, after all.

  13. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @CSK: I’m inclined to think that population density, proximity to manufacturing sources, political clout, and the levels of opportunistic acting within various administrations compared to snafu-ness in others are the principal factors. Out on the far Northwest corner of the left coast, the largest HMO/PPOs are saying that they can’t get reliable enough supplies of vaccine to even attempt to schedule vaccination appointments, the mass vaccination centers have had no appointments available since about one week after they opened, and the clinics at the Oregon Health Science University have never had vaccine beyond the levels necessary to vaccinate their staff–though the administrative staff DID manage to jump the line and get vaccinated BEFORE staff who actually see patients did, IIRC.

    I have doctors affiliated with three of the most extensive healthcare groups in the region–Legacy, Peace Health/Providence, and OHSU, and all three of those send me notices that they will contact patients if vaccine becomes available and to please stop calling to ask about it, and have been sending them every few days for a month. In our corner of the world, an additional problem is that almost half of the population (some people say closer to 65%, but that’s based on imaginative line drawing IMO) live in Pugetropolis and fully 60% of the Oregon population lives in Willamettetropolis, so there may be real logistical problems with supply considering that Seattle and Portland are not in the top range of metrocenters, but still create formidable obstacles to being able to mete out scarce resources in a perceptibly equitable fashion. And in Washington, the cherry on top is that only one vaccine available at the moment is considered warehousable by the state, so it’s not ordering from all potential sources.

    We’re pretty far from the action up here, though and the State Congressional Delegation is probably being told to “wait your turn.” The curse of having low profile public servants.

  14. @Gustopher:

    Kathy should absolutely go to a crazy state and get one of their vaccine doses.

    Here’s a dispatch from a deep Red state: there are still plenty of people here who want the shots and the main problem is supply.

    In Alabama, we moved on 2/8 to include a number of groups, including educators. There was a multi-day mass vaccination event at a civic center in Montgomery (an old mall that now houses two high schools, a police station, and a fire station). I waited a total of 4:45 to get a shot along with hundreds of other residents (they gave out 1900-1500 shots a day that week).

    So, the good news is I have my first shot of the Pfizer vaccine (the bad news is that I have to wait in that same line to get the second shot).

    We have also seen Wal-Mart start to have the Moderna vaccine and a few other sources.

    My university has been ready to be a community distribution site for quite some time now, but the state has not been in a position to provide us with the supply needed to start.

    A friend of mine who works for ADPH (Alabama Department of Public Health) tells me that the pipeline for the two vaccines (Moderna and Pfizer) are different–and for reasons I do not fully understand).

    My experience as a citizen and as someone on my university’s Coronavirus Task Force has been that the main problem has been supply.