Unexpectedly Intriguing!
20 December 2023
Human development stages on Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Human_development_stages_(collage).jpg

Life expectancy in the United States has started to recover after taking a big hit from 2020's Coronavirus Pandemic.

That's the big story following the CDC's release of its provisional life expectancy estimates for 2022 at the end of November 2023. After peaking at 78.8 years in 2019 (76.3 years for males and 81.4 years for females), average American life expectancy at birth dropped during 2020 and 2021, bottoming at 76.4 years (73.5 years for males and 79.3 years for females).

But in 2022, it began to rebound. Average life expectancy at birth rose to 77.5 years, with life expectancy rising by 1.3 years to 74.8 years for males and rising by 0.9 years to 80.2 years for females. The CDC finds "declines in mortality due to COVID-19 were the primary reason for the increases in life expectancy from 2021 to 2022 observed for the total population".

The following chart showing how life expectancy from birth has changed for Americans from 2000 through 2022 is taken from the CDC's report presenting its provisional findings for 2022.

CDC. Provisional Life Expectancy Estimates for 2022. Figure 1. Life expectancy at birth, by sex: United States, 2000-2022

While the decline in COVID-19 mortality led the improvement in U.S. life expectancy, it wasn't the only contributor to it.

The increase of 1.1 years in life expectancy from 2021 to 2022 primarily resulted from decreases in mortality due to COVID-19 (84.2% of the positive contribution), heart disease (3.6%), unintentional injuries (2.6%), cancer (2.2%), and homicide (1.5%) (Figure 4). The increase in life expectancy would have been even greater if not for the offsetting effects of increases in mortality due to influenza and pneumonia (25.5%), perinatal conditions (21.5%), kidney disease (13.0%), nutritional deficiencies (12.6%), and congenital malformations (5.9%).

The CDC's provisional data for 2022 will be finalized over the next months as the agency is still accumulating death certificate data.


Arias, Elizabeth; Kochanek, Kenneth D.; Xu, Jiaquan; Tejada-Vera, Betzaida. Provisional Life Expectancy Estimates for 2022. National Center for Health Statistics (U.S.). VSRR; no 31. [PDF Document]. 29 November 2023.

NAMES. United States Life Tables, 2019. National Center for Health Statistics (U.S.). National Vital Statistics Reports, Vol. 70, No. 19. [PDF Document]. 22 March 2022.

Image credit: Human development stages (collage) on Wikimedia Commons. Creative Commons. CC BY-SA 3.0 DEED Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported.


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