US Life Expectancy Tumbles to 25-year Low
By RT News
Official data registered sharp increases in death rates in 2021 for the second straight year
The US posted sharp increases in mortality rates for a second straight year in 2021, driven largely by the Covid-19 pandemic, leaving Americans with their shortest projected life spans in a generation.
Relatives of Covid-19 victims attend the September 2021 opening ceremony for an exhibition in Washington commemorating the Americans who died from the virus.
The average US life expectancy plummeted to 76.4 years in 2021 from 77 years in 2020, according to data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Thursday. The average has dropped by 2.4 years since 2019, sliding to the lowest level since Bill Clinton was running for his second term as president, ‘Macarena’ was the top pop song, and the likes of Google, Facebook, and Twitter hadn’t even come into existence.
Fatality rates increased for eight of the ten leading causes of death last year, the CDC said. The leading cause, heart disease, rose by 3.3% to an age-adjusted rate of 173.8 per 100,000 people. Covid-19 remained the number three cause, with its death rate surging 22% to 104.1 per 100,000 people. Ironically, President Joe Biden blamed his predecessor, Donald Trump, for the nation’s high Covid-19 death toll in 2020, only to see US fatalities from the virus rise even further on his watch.
In addition to deaths caused directly by Covid-19, a jump in drug-overdose fatalities has been blamed partly on the pandemic. Overdose deaths climbed 16% last year to 107,000, nearly double the number of Americans killed in the Vietnam War. This has been driven by fentanyl and other opioids.
Overall death rates rose most sharply among young people. For example, mortality rose by 16% for Americans ages 35-44, 13% in the 25-34 category and 12% for ages 45-54. Children aged 1-4 died at a 10% higher rate in 2021.
Life expectancy for US males fell to 73.5 years, down 0.7 year from the 2020 level, while the average for females dipped by 0.6 year, to 79.3 years.
Even before the latest data was released, the US ranked behind more than 60 other countries in life expectancy, according to World Population Review. The US ranks just ahead of Cuba and close behind China and Turkey, with an estimated life expectancy of 78.2 years. That compares with average life spans of nearly 87 years for Monaco and around 85 years for Japan and Liechtenstein.
Why most Americans are disappointed in the healthcare system
Data shows a century-record life expectancy decline in a country with the one of the costliest healthcare systems in the world
At the end of August, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) put out a press release announcing that life expectancy in the country dropped for the second year in a row in 2021. It noted that Americans can expect to live as long as they did in 1996 and that the two-year decline was the most significant in a century.
What’s driving this considerable decline is, per the CDC, primarily the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. That’s perhaps not surprising since the US has the most extensive caseload and death toll worldwide. But it’s essential to also note that US life expectancy had been plateauing since before the pandemic due to “unintentional injuries,” liver disease, suicide, and preventable illnesses.
Now, America is on pace to drop out of the top 50 nations in life expectancy. One key factor is that every country above it has a public option for health insurance or a publicly funded healthcare system. Could there be a correlation?
Well, a new poll that came out Monday from the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that less than half of Americans believe their healthcare system is handled well. Only 12% said it’s dealt with extremely or very well. The solution: 40% support a single-payer public healthcare system, and 58% support a public option.
It’s not hard to see why Americans feel this way when health outcomes in the country are so poor, meanwhile having one of the most expensive healthcare systems in the world. And it’s not just older adults or the immunocompromised, e.g., those at greatest risk for Covid-19 who are exposed to America’s poor health outcomes, as I mentioned earlier.
Another valuable metric for understanding the health impact of the pandemic and other factors on how long Americans live is called ‘years of life lost’ (YLL). One preprint study called ‘Missing Americans: Early Death in the United States, 1933-2021’ found that “half of all deaths under 65 years and 91% of the increase in under-65 immortality since 2019 would have been avoided if the U.S. had the mortality rates of its peers.”
It puts forward the conclusion that the US has a much higher mortality rate among children and working-age adults than peer countries, sometimes at a rate of even three times higher. Moreover, the paper found that even if excess deaths from Covid-19 were eliminated, the US would still have more excess deaths than comparable countries because of unintentional injuries and preventable diseases. This all contributed to a total YLL in 2021 of 25 million years, mostly on the back of younger people dying prematurely.
There is much to say about the myriad public health issues facing America, including the opioid crisis, the gun violence epidemic, and widespread obesity. All of these require a robust public health and public policy response to tackle adequately. But clearly, the lynchpin that would fit all of these pieces together is a working healthcare system that produces adequate results for its cost and is accessible.
As I mentioned before, Americans are paying far too much for far too little in terms of treatment. But then there’s a significant amount of people that just don’t have access to healthcare. For example, some young people don’t visit the doctor because they assume they’re young and healthy. Sometimes those people end up having emergencies that land them in the hospital anyway.
The problem is that preventative medicine is extremely important for ensuring people don’t end up in the emergency room or with major disabilities – and the American healthcare system fails. This is evident by yet another metric, healthy average life expectancy (HALE), which measures how long someone can expect to live without disability. As of a 2019 report by the World Health Organization, the US has the lowest HALE of any high-income country at just over 66 years of age.
Again, Americans are dying younger than their peers, they are more likely to die in their healthy years from preventable causes, and are developing disabilities at a younger age. On top of this, they have more expensive and less accessible healthcare. Is it any wonder so many of them are unhappy with their healthcare system? It’s well pastime to reform it.