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Why American life expectancy is decreasing
For the second year in a row, life expectancy in the U.S. declined—this time to the lowest level since 1996.
That marks a disturbing turn from the historical trend. In 1900, U.S. life expectancy was 47 years, and by 2019 it hit 79. But in 2020, life expectancy fell to 77 and dropped further to 76.4 in 2021, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
This alarming trend is clearly not an anomaly and is primarily due to heart disease, cancer, COVID-19 and the ongoing drug-overdose epidemic. Heart disease remains the leading cause of death, followed by cancer and COVID-19, which accounted for about 60% of the decline in life expectancy. Meanwhile, overdose deaths—which account for more than one-third of all accidental deaths in the United States—have risen five-fold over the past two decades.
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