There’s no doubt that the past couple of years have been strange ones, and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is likely to be felt for decades to come. And in a new study, we’ve discovered one of the many impacts the pandemic is having. While a July study confirmed that across the United States, everyone had their life expectancy drop precipitously, American men’s life expectancy dropped more than any other time since WWII. Here’s what you need to know.
According to a new study from Oxford University, life expectancy rates fell across 27 countries due to the coronavirus spread in 2020. Their data shows that 11 nations saw a drop of more than one year for men. But the United States fared particularly poorly, showing the biggest decline of life expectancy for men by 2.2 fewer years. (Second place went to Lithuanian men, who saw their life expectancies decline by 1.7 years.)
What’s interesting is that while everyone saw their life expectancies decline — earlier data from the CDC found that life expectancy for Americans overall fell by 1.5 years, making it one of the largest life span declines since World War II, with outcomes even worse for Hispanic and Black Americans by double — women saw not as steep a decline in their life expectancy, “just” 1.7 years.
This isn’t all that surprising as there has been a crisis in the life expectancy of American men over the past few years.
A limitation of the study is that the researchers didn’t analyze the data against income or race. Well before the COVID-19 crisis, the longevity of American men’s lives has been declining. Men are more likely to die at work than women, men are 50 percent more likely than women to die of heart disease, significantly more likely to commit suicide. 10,000 men get testicular cancer annually, prostate cancer is the third leading cause of cancer death in the United States. Men are less likely to seek out health care than women and unmarried men have worse health outcomes than married ones. Basically, COVID-19 clobbered a problem that was bad and made it worse.
The researchers did note that the men in the US “may have experienced a steeper drop in their expected lifespan due to higher rates of certain medical conditions than men in Europe,” CBS News reports. They did note that “uneven access to health care and structural issues such as racism” likely had some impact on the data.
“Recent research from the USA, for example, shows that socially disadvantaged populations such as Blacks and Latinos experienced losses three times higher than those populations with greater vulnerability to COVID-19,” the researchers noted.
“These groups were getting infected and that has a lot to do with their status in society,” lead report author Elizabeth Arias said in an interview in 2020. “You would expect that an infectious disease or pandemic would affect everybody…but it affected populations that are distinguished by race and ethnicity very differently.”
In any case, let’s hope the federal government sees this data and takes major steps to invest in America’s failing health care infrastructure to save lives.