Life Expectancy Saw Biggest Drop since World War II in 2020–And not just due to COVID-19

Life Expectancy Saw Biggest Drop since World War II in 2020–And not just due to COVID-19


Robert Gorter, MD, PhD.

 July 23rd, 2021


Image Credit: PixaBay | CC via 2.0

Americans just got some bad, if not very surprising, news. Newly released Centers for Disease Control (CDC) data show that life expectancy fell significantly in 2020. And, no, not just because of COVID-19. The shift is more seismic than what can be explained by the pandemic alone.

“Life expectancy in the U.S. fell by 1.5 years in 2020, the biggest decline since at least World War II,” the Wall Street Journal reports. “Provisional data released Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that American life expectancy dropped to 77.3 years in 2020, roughly the same level as in 2003, erasing years of hard-won gains in the nation’s public health.”

CDC demographer Elizabeth Arias remarked: “I have never seen a change this big except in the history books. Life expectancy won’t recover to pre-pandemic levels in 2021, Dr. Arias and other population-health experts said, and could decline again if a new Covid-19 variant emerges that vaccines don’t protect against, some said. The highly transmissible Delta variant of the virus has pushed cases, hospitalizations, and deaths up again recently, particularly in parts of the country where vaccination rates are low.

On the other hand, more and more reports appear that in nations with a high percentage of vaccinated individuals, the rate of new infections with the delta strain affect almost exclusively vaccinated individuals.”

Elizabeth Arias of the CDC continues: “Of course, a decline in life expectancy is to be expected amid a serious pandemic. And, per the Journal, COVID-19 was either the direct cause or a contributing cause for 385,201 American deaths in 2020. But beyond these deaths, many of the factors driving the drop in life expectancy likely had more to do with the government’s heavy-handed response to the pandemic than the virus itself.”

For example, COVID was the 3rd leading cause of death in 2020. The first two were heart disease and cancer. In both cases, these lethal threats were exacerbated by government lockdowns intended to curb the spread of COVID-19.

“Many people skipped or delayed treatment last year for conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure and endured isolation, stress, and interruptions in normal diet and exercise routines,” the Journal explains. Similarly, many people delayed cancer screenings and other crucial medical care due to government shutdowns. And, there have never been documented so many suicides (approx. 250,000).


COVID-19, drug overdoses, and steep incline of homicides drove longevity down; Hispanic men suffered the largest decline

In these ways, the government’s “cure” for the pandemic fueled other forms of the disease. So, too, deaths of despair increased as lockdowns drove mental health problems, economic crisis, and isolation. For example, lethal drug overdoses spiked 29 percent last year. An astounding 93,000 Americans lost their lives to this cause. Why?

“Lockdowns and other pandemic restrictions isolated those with drug addictions and made treatment harder to get,” the Associated Press reported.

Of course, proponents of government pandemic interventions would say that these second-order effects, while tragic, were necessary byproducts of lockdown orders we needed to stop the pandemic. The problem with this argument is that it’s unclear that lockdowns actually accomplished anything.

“Dozens of studies have since shown little to no correlation between lockdown stringency and containing the spread of COVID-19. From Florida to New York, states that took different approaches to handle COVID-19 have shown no clear pattern illustrating the success of harsh containment measures, despite their drastic costs.

Indeed, one study even concluded that COVID-19 spread the most virulently at home—suggesting that “stay at home” lockdown orders were more than ineffective, and actually counterproductive. Similarly, research from the Rand Corporation found no evidence that the measures worked. And another analysis found that the costs of mitigation efforts exceeded the benefits for 89 percent of the population.”

So; any benefits actually derived from the arduous and painful lockdown measures were minimal, at best. But as Americans’ dropping life expectancy shows, the costs were grave and undeniable.

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