The year 2020 will go down as a lot of things, and perhaps the vast majority of them negative, but here’s a pretty stomach-churning one: It will officially boast the shortest life expectancy nationwide since World War II, according to new data from the CDC.
The agency just released its annual mortality report for the year, and the stats show overall life expectancy fell by 1.7 years from 2019 to 2020 (the largest single-year decline in over 75 years), the death rate climbed by 17.8% (another record increase), and of the top 10 causes of deaths for Americans, six got even deadlier. And of course, COVID-19 joined their ranks.
In all, the death rate climbed for every single age group but one. The CDC breaks Americans into 10 groups, and the only one that didn’t die in greater numbers was children ages 1 to 4. Nine of the 10 leading causes of death, which in 2020 accounted for 74.1% of all deaths, also appeared on the 2019 list (the difference was COVID’s emergence pushed off the previous No. 10). Here, you can see how each cause changed from 2019 to 2020:
- Heart disease — up 4.1%, from 161.5 to 168.2 deaths per 100,000 people
- Cancer — down 1.4%, from 146.2 to 144.1
- COVID-19 — new to the list
- Unintentional injuries — up 16.8%, from 49.3 to 57.6
- Stroke — up 4.9%, from 37 to 38.8
- Chronic lower respiratory diseases — down 4.7%, from 38.2 to 36.4
- Alzheimer’s disease — up 8.7%, from 29.8 to 32.4
- Diabetes — up 14.8%, from 21.6 to 24.8
- Influenza and pneumonia — up 5.7%, from 12.3 to 13
- Kidney disease — unchanged
The CDC says the increase was even worse for racial and ethnic minorities. Death rates for Hispanic people outpaced the rates for white people by about 3-to-1, and for Black people, their rates were about twice as bad as the rates for white people. The figure that really puts a point on it, though, is this one: The rate for Hispanic males went up by nearly 43%, versus only about 13% for white males.
However, infant mortality actually decreased. It fell by 2.9%, to a record low of 541.9 infant deaths per 100,000 births, showing there was at least one silver lining to the extraordinary mess that was 2020.