Dramatic drop in US life expectancy is grim hallmark of pandemic

Date: Feb 17 2021

Contact: APHA Media Relations

Statement from APHA Executive Director Georges C. Benjamin, MD

New findings released today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — which show a dramatic drop in U.S. life expectancy during the COVID-19 pandemic — paint a sobering picture for the public health community and for our nation.

As shown in a provisional report from CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics, overall life expectancy for U.S. adults declined a full year in the pandemic’s first six months alone. When broken down by race and ethnicity, the data is even more stark: Life expectancy fell by three years for Black men, and by 2.4 years for Hispanic men.

The report adds to research showing the pandemic has had a harsher impact on people of color in our nation, exacerbating long-existing racial and economic inequities.

When taken into account with the small upticks in life expectancy we saw pre-pandemic, these new findings spotlight the truly devastating toll that COVID-19 is taking on the health of the American people. Now more than ever, we need to expand our approach to understanding how the virus is impacting all lives, both for those who are living with its direct ripple effects and for others whose years have been shortened by the other stressors of the pandemic.

If we want to be the healthiest nation in one generation, it is time to refocus our resources and think about addressing the concurrent problems of a public health system decimated by years of underfunding, a history of systemic racism and the inequitable access to care and services that has plagued our country and been brought to the fore by the unprecedented pandemic. We must take a hard look at how we can solve the many public health crises that have emerged or worsened during this crisis.

Reversing these statistics is part of APHA’s mission, and we will continue to work steadfastly to assure that everyone lives longer, healthier lives.”


The American Public Health Association champions the health of all people and all communities. We are the only organization that combines a nearly 150-year perspective, a broad-based member community and the ability to influence federal policy to improve the public’s health. Learn more at www.apha.org.