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US Life Expectancy Hits Lowest Age in Two Decades

The average life expectancy in the US has fallen to the lowest levels since 1996, largely due to COVID-19 and drug overdoses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

This is the second year in a row that the average life expectancy has decreased in the nation.

According to the annual final mortality data released by the agency on December 22, the death rate for the entire U.S. population increased by 5.3 percent from 835.4 deaths per 100,000 population in 2020 to 879.7 in 2021.

As a result of the higher death rate, life expectancy at birth for the U.S. population decreased from 77 years in 2020 to 76.4 years in 2021.

ABC News reports that “men and women had roughly the same decrease in life expectancy, according to the data, with men seeing declines of 0.7 years from 74.2 years in 2020 to 73.5 in 2021. Meanwhile, women saw a decrease of 0.6 years of 79.9 years in 2020 to 79.3 in 2021.”

The agency found that among racial and ethnic groups, death rates increased for nearly every demographic. Decreased death rates were only seen for Hispanic and Black men, “with nonsignificantly different rates for Asian men and women.”

“The 10 leading causes of death in 2021 were largely unchanged from 2020, except chronic liver disease and cirrhosis became the 9th leading cause of death in 2021 while influenza and pneumonia dropped from the list of 10 leading causes,” the CDC reports. “Heart disease remained the leading cause of death in the United States, followed by cancer and COVID-19.”

A second report released by the CDC on the same day, titled “Drug Overdose Deaths in the United States, 2001-2021,” showed that “overdose deaths, which account for more than a third of all accidental deaths in the United States, have risen five-fold over the past two decades.”

The report states that the “official number of drug overdose deaths among residents in the United States for 2021 was 106,699, nearly 16 percent higher than the 91,799 deaths in 2020.”

The rate of overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids other than methadone — which includes drugs like fentanyl, fentanyl analogs, and tramadol — increased 22 percent from 17.8 in 2020 to 21.8 in 2021.

“From 2020 to 2021, the rate of drug overdose deaths involving cocaine increased 22% (from 6.0 to 7.3) and the rate for deaths involving psychostimulants with abuse potential (drugs such as methamphetamine) increased 33% (from 7.5 to 10.0),” the report added.

The drug overdose death rate was 32.4 overdose deaths per 100,000 in 2021, higher than 28.3 in 2020.

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