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U.S. Life Expectancy Shows Resilience in 2022: CDC Report Reveals Positive Rebound Amid Pandemic Challenges

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On Wednesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics released "near-final data," unveiling a positive shift in the average life expectancy in the U.S. for 2022. It rebounded by just over a year following two consecutive declines, with the decline in COVID-19-related mortality playing a crucial role in this reversal.

The overall life expectancy at birth increased from 76.4 years in 2021 to 77.5 years in 2022. This improvement comes after a significant drop of 2.4 years in the estimated average lifespan in the United States in 2020, representing the largest single-year decline in over seven decades, continuing into 2021. Notably, the positive change in life expectancy in 2022 was mainly attributed to the reduction in COVID-19-related mortality, contributing over 84% to the overall improvement. Other factors, such as decreased deaths from heart disease, unintentional injuries, cancer, and homicide, accounted for approximately 10%.

According to separate CDC tracking data, the share of U.S. deaths attributed to COVID-19 peaked at around 30% in early January 2021 but had diminished to approximately 5% by late December 2022. Despite the increase in life expectancy in 2022, the U.S. has not yet returned to pre-pandemic levels, aligning it with life expectancy figures from the early 2000s.

Researchers emphasized that the rise in life expectancy would have been more significant if not for the offsetting effects of increased mortality related to causes such as influenza, pneumonia, perinatal conditions, and kidney disease.

Breaking down the data by gender, the average life expectancy for men increased by 1.3 years to 74.8 years in 2022, while women experienced a 0.9-year increase to 80.2 years. This resulted in a narrowing of the gap in life expectancy between women and men from 5.8 years in 2021 to 5.4 years in 2022. In 2010, this disparity had reached its lowest level at 4.8 years but increased in 2020 and 2021 to levels not seen since 1996 when the difference was six years.

The report also highlighted changes in life expectancy among different racial and ethnic groups. Life expectancy among Black individuals increased by 1.6 years, rising from 71.2 in 2021 to 72.8 in 2022. Asian individuals experienced a one-year increase from 83.5 in 2021 to 84.5 in 2022, while whites saw a 0.8-year increase to 77.5 in 2022.

In a separate report released on the same day, the CDC presented data on suicide rates in 2022. The provisional age-adjusted suicide rate for the year was 14.3 per 100,000 standard population, indicating a 1% increase from the final rate of 14.1 per 100,000 in 2021 and nearly 6% from the rate of 13.5 per 100,000 in 2020. If confirmed, the 2022 rate would be the highest since 1941.

Early data also suggested a consecutive increase in the number of suicides, rising from 48,183 deaths in 2021 to 49,449 in 2022 – the highest number ever recorded in the U.S. The report anticipates that the final number of suicides for 2022 may be even higher as additional death certificates with pending causes of death are determined.

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