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Key Insights: The Latest on U.S. Life Expectancy

September 02, 2022

During 2021, the nation’s average life expectancy declined to the lowest level in 26 years, as the COVID-19 pandemic led to a sharp decline for the second consecutive year.

Last year, the U.S. life expectancy at birth was 76.1 years, according to a new report from the National Center for Health Statistics.

“Excess deaths due to COVID-19 and other causes in 2020 and 2021 led to an overall decline in life expectancy between 2019 and 2021 of 2.7 years for the total population, 3.1 years for males, and 2.3 years for females,“ the report noted.

The mortality data in the report includes more than 99 percent of the deaths that occurred in 2021. Among the key takeaways:

  • By gender:  There was a 5.9-year difference in life expectancy between men and women. Life expectancy at birth for men was 73.2, down from 74.2 in 2020. For women, life expectancy declined to 79.2 from 79.9.
  • Leading Causes:  The decline in life expectancy was primarily from increases in mortality due to COVID-19 (50% of the negative contribution), unintentional injuries (15.9%), heart disease (4.1%), chronic liver disease, and cirrhosis (3.0%), and suicide (2.1%).
  • Offsetting factors:  The report noted declines in mortality due to influenza and pneumonia (38.5%), chronic lower respiratory diseases (28.8%), Alzheimer disease (18.3%), perinatal conditions (6.3%), and Parkinson disease (2.3%)
  • Demographic disparities:  American Indian and Alaskan Native people had the largest decline in life expectancy from 2019 to 2021 (71.8 years to 65.2). The leading causes were related to COVID-19 (21.4%), unintentional injuries (21.3%), chronic liver disease and cirrhosis (18.6), suicide (5.4%), and heart disease (3.4%).
  • Smallest decline:  The non-Hispanic Asian population experienced the smallest decline in life expectancy during 2021, going from 83.6 to 83.5. The population’s life expectancy was 85.6 during 2019.

HAP continues to support population health initiatives that promote health and wellness and is committed to tackling disparities that challenge our communities. Hospitals and health systems are dedicated to improve the health of their patients, their employees, and the communities they serve. Learn more about our population health initiatives.

The report is available to review online.