U.S. Life Expectancy Falls to Lowest Level Since 1996

The average life expectancy of an American has fallen to its lowest level since 1996, a trend researchers are blaming on the ongoing prevalence of COVID-19 and the opioid epidemic. 

Overall life expectancy continues to experience significant declines, with the average life shortened by over seven months in the last year. 

This decrease follows an already serious decline of 1.8 years in 2020 when the coronavirus pandemic began. This means that despite advances in medicine, the expected life span of someone born in the U.S. is now 76.4 years, the shortest it has been in some 26 years. 

The figures are based on two reports released by the CDC on Thursday that pointed to COVID-19 and drug overdoses, primarily from powerful opioids such as fentanyl, as the primary drivers of premature death. 

Some killers are on the decline, including heart disease, which still remains the leading cause of death in the U.S., as well as cancer, diabetes, and kidney failure.

There was also a fall in deaths from Alzheimer's, flu, and pneumonia, perhaps because these conditions were falsely labeled as COVID-19. However, there was an increase in deaths by suicide and alcohol-induced liver disease. 

"It's not a good year for the data, let's put it that way," said CDC statistician Kenneth Kochanek. "The majority of those deaths are to younger people, and deaths to younger people affect the overall life expectancy more than deaths to the elderly." 

Meanwhile, women are still considerably outliving their male counterparts, with the average woman living to around 79 compared with the average man dying at just 73.