Death rates had been down and life expectancy was steadily rising in the U.S., according to two reports at the beginning of 2020. Now, nearly a year into the deadly COVID-19 pandemic, life expectancy has taken a considerable, unprecedented dip.
In the first half of 2020, the life expectancy at birth fell considerably to 77.8 – a decrease of one whole year from the same number recorded in 2018. Life expectancy had been steadily decreasing since it reached its record peak of 78.9 in 2014, in large part due to increased drug overdose deaths, unhealthy lifestyles and suicides in the country. The CDC noted a decrease in drug overdose deaths in 2018, contributing to a higher life expectancy.
Other factors include a 2.2 percent decrease in cancer deaths, as well as a decrease in unintentional deaths for the year.
Deaths from the opioid crisis, however, were up astronomically in 2018, with the CDC reporting a 10 percent increase in synthetic opioid-related deaths between 2017 and 2018. Overdoses from specific drugs like cocaine and fentanyl have also increased by double-digit percentages over the last years leading up to 2018.
Suicide rates are also continuing to rise, with a 1.4 percent increase between 2017 and 2018 in the country. The U.S. has perennially held one of the highest rates of suicide in the world.