Life expectancy for US men drops more than 2 years due to COVID-19 pandemic, report shows

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- New research shows the COVID-19 pandemic is responsible for the biggest drop in life expectancy since World War II.

A study recently published in the International Journal of Epidemiology analyzed life expectancy at birth among men and women from 2019 to 2020. Out of 29 different countries the largest drop was seen in the U.S. According to the analysis, adult men lost 2.2 years and adult women lost 1.5 years.

"It's unheard of," said UCSF's Dr. George Rutherford. "We've only seen this kind of drop twice, once from the 1918 flu pandemic and during World War II."

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"Why do you think the drop is greater among men?" ABC7's Stephanie Sierra asked.

"Men are more fragile when it comes to life expectancy," said Rutherford. "Men don't live as long as women."

Rutherford added men are also more likely to contract a severe form of the virus.

"These numbers are staggering, numbing really," said Joshua Salomon, a Stanford Professor of Medicine and Researcher in the Center for Health Policy.

Salomon says if the population as a whole lost between one to two years in life expectancy, it is even worse for minority populations.

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"Other studies have shown the size of that drop in life expectancy is nearly two or three times higher for Black and Hispanic populations," he said.

It's important to note this study is not a prediction on how long people will live or how many years may be cut short, but rather a snapshot in time measuring the loss of life throughout the pandemic. More than 700,000 American lives have been lost to COVID-19, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

Experts say once death rates decline in the U.S. the life expectancy measure will eventually go back up. Salomon says most European countries have managed to continually increase vaccinating their populations, while the U.S. has plateaued since June.

"The U.S. has fared worse than many other countries," Salomon said. "Partly because the U.S. response has been weaker compared to other European countries that took the pandemic more seriously."

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