COVID VaccinesReturn to WorkMental Health

U.S. life expectancy saw the biggest drop since World War II—and it’s especially bad news for New Yorkers

August 23, 2022, 3:48 PM UTC
A patient is transported outside of Tisch Hospital in New York on November 13, 2020. New York saw a bigger decline in life expectancy in 2020 than any other state.
Kena Betancur—AFP/Getty Images

Life expectancy in the United States fell by almost two years in 2020—the biggest decline in American lifetimes since the Second World War.

A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s National Center for Health Statistics, published Tuesday, analyzed data from 2020 and found that life expectancy had declined in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

COVID and “unintentional injuries”—like drug overdoses—were the main drivers in lowering life expectancy, experts said.

New York suffered a bigger decline in life expectancy than any other state, according to the data, with its residents expected to live for three years less in 2020 than they had been expected to live in 2019.

Washington, D.C., and Louisiana lost 2.7 and 2.6 years respectively from their life expectancies in 2020, making them the second- and third-worst hit.

Hawaii saw the smallest decline in life expectancy, with life expectancy in falling by 0.2 years between 2019 and 2020.

Hawaii remained the state with the highest life expectancy, with people in the Aloha State expected to live until 80.7, while in Mississippi—the state with the lowest life expectancy—people only had a life expectancy of 71.9 years.  

Overall, U.S. life expectancy fell by 1.8 years in 2020, with Americans expected to live until they were 77 years of age during the first year of the pandemic.

The decline marked the biggest drop in U.S. life expectancy since World War II, when the figure fell by 2.9 years in a 12-month period.

The COVID factor

More than 1 million people in the U.S. have died of COVID-19 to date, according to WHO statistics.

According to previously published CDC data, the overall death rate in the U.S. rose by 17% between 2019 and 2020.

Globally, more COVID deaths were recorded in 2021 than in 2020, with deaths from the virus surpassing 2020’s toll by mid-June last year.

Meanwhile, drug overdoses have been playing a part for several years in stunting American lifespans, with the opioid crisis contributing to slight drops in life expectancy in recent years.  

Sign up for the Fortune Features email list so you don’t miss our biggest features, exclusive interviews, and investigations.