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Life expectancy in the United States, 1860-2020

Over the past 160 years, life expectancy (from birth) in the United States has risen from 39.4 years in 1860, to 78.9 years in 2020. One of the major reasons for the overall increase of life expectancy in the last two centuries is the fact that the infant and child mortality rates have decreased by so much during this time. Medical advancements, fewer wars and improved living standards also mean that people are living longer than they did in previous centuries.
Despite this overall increase, the life expectancy dropped three times since 1860; from 1865 to 1870 during the American Civil War, from 1915 to 1920 during the First World War and following Spanish Flu epidemic, and it has dropped again between 2015 and now. The reason for the most recent drop in life expectancy is not a result of any specific event, but has been attributed to negative societal trends, such as unbalanced diets and sedentary lifestyles, high medical costs, and increasing rates of suicide and drug use.

Life expectancy (from birth) in the United States, from 1860 to 2020*

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Sources

Release date

August 2019

Region

United States

Survey time period

1860 to 2020

Supplementary notes

All data shown is the average figure from the preceding five year period.
Data for the second source can be found here.

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