COVID-19 may shorten Americans’ life expectancy at birth of by a median of 1.13 years, to 77.48 years—the largest single-year dip in at least 40 years and the lowest estimated lifespan since 2003, according to projections from a study published yesterday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The researchers, from the University of Southern California (USC) and Princeton University, also projected a decline in life expectancy at age 65 of 0.87 years. They caution that their projections are only best estimates and not definitive.
The decline is especially steep for black Americans, who could expect to die 2.10 years sooner, at 72.78 years, and for Latinos, who could see their lives shortened by 3.05 years, to 78.77. The researchers projected a much smaller decline for whites, at 0.68 years, for a life expectancy of 77.84 years. In contrast, the 1918-19 flu pandemic was estimated to have lowered life expectancy by 7 to 12 years.
As a result, the gap in life expectancy between black and white Americans could widen by 40%, from 3.6 to more than 5 years, a prediction that backs mounting evidence of COVID-19’s disproportionate effect on disadvantaged populations. Blacks have consistently had a lower life expectancy than whites, but they had made larger relative gains in life expectancy than whites over the past 20 years.
If the projections come to pass, the novel coronavirus could undo many of the gains made in bridging racial life expectancy gaps, the authors said. For example, Latinos, who have consistently had lower death rates than whites, could see 2 years shaved off their survival advantage, for only a 1-year difference.
10 times the reductions seen in recent years