Life Expectancy Is on the Rise Again, With Caveats

COVID and drug overdoses still pose an issue, per the CDC
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 21, 2024 8:46 AM CDT
CDC Says US Life Expectancy Has Bounced Back
Stock photo.   (Getty Images/Sabrina Bracher)

Life expectancy in the United States is on the upswing once again, its first positive motion in two years. NPR reports on new CDC stats that show in 2022, the average came in at 77.5 years, an increase from the 76.4 years set in 2021. But both COVID and drug overdoses continue to keep tugging.

  • Leading causes of death: Heart disease and cancer remain the top two, while COVID, which had been third on the list in 2021, dropped to fourth. In its place in the No. 3 spot: "unintentional injuries," which include drug ODs.
  • Peak: Life expectancy reached its highest level in 2014, when it came in at an average of 78.9 years.
  • COVID: "The number of deaths for which COVID-19 was the underlying cause of death decreased 55.3%" in 2022, the CDC notes. In 2021, there were 416,893 deaths from the coronavirus; in 2022 that figure fell to 186,552.
  • Drug overdoses: Per a second CDC report, that number, driven by fentanyl, went in the opposite direction, jumping from 106,699 in 2021 to 107,941 in 2022. Politico notes, however, that OD deaths more or less "leveled out" between 2021 and 2022, with no statistically significant increase. Overall, however, "the age-adjusted rate of drug overdose deaths nearly quadrupled from 8.2 in 2002 to 32.6 in 2022," the CDC researchers say.
  • Infant mortality: There, NPR notes a "troubling" rise of 3.1% over a one-year stretch, with 20,553 deaths in 2022—633 more infant deaths than the previous year, per the CDC.
(More life expectancy stories.)

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