Special Report

Life Expectancy Was Declining in These States Even Before the Pandemic

The full effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on life expectancy in the U.S. won’t be known for a few more years, certainly not before the pandemic has been declared over. But the coronavirus has indeed caused a plunge in the overall life expectancy in the country during the first half of 2020.

Life expectancy at birth is estimated to have dropped to 77.8 years between January and June 2020, down a full year from the 78.8 years in 2019, according to a research by the National Center for Health Statistics. To put these figures into  context, it was  disturbing news when life expectancy dropped by 0.1 years between 2014 and 2015 — the first decline since 1993. Life expectancy kept declining in some states after 2015.

To determine the states where life expectancy has declined already before the coronavirus pandemic, 24/7 Tempo reviewed life expectancy at birth figures from 2010 to 2015 and 2017 to 2019 from the NCHS, a branch of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The drop in life expectancy between 2015 and 2019 was driven partially by a steady increase in deaths by suicide and fatal drug overdoses. In 18 of the 25 states where life expectancy was in decline even before the pandemic, the drug overdose death rate is higher than the U.S. average of 21.2 deaths per 100,000 residents.

There may be a glimmer of good news, however. The life expectancy has increased in half the country between 2015 and 2019. The overall U.S. life expectancy increased in 2018, the first time in four years. The improvement came after fatal drug overdoses declined for the first time in nearly three decades, according to the NCHS. 

The increase in life expectancy at birth and the likelihood of living a long life vary considerably across the country, from state to state and city to city — these are the 40 US cities with the shortest life expectancy

Click here to see where life expectancy was declining even before the pandemic
Click here to see our detailed methodology

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