U.S. life expectancy at birth for 2020, based on nearly final data, was 77.3 years, the lowest it has been since 2003. Male life expectancy (74.5) also declined to a level not seen since 2003, while female life expectancy (80.2) returned to the lowest level since 2005.
Mortality due to COVID-19 had, by far, the single greatest effect on the decline in life expectancy at birth between 2019 and 2020, overall, among men and women, and for the three race and Hispanic-origin groups shown in this report. Among the causes contributing negatively to the change in life expectancy, COVID-19 contributed 90% for the Hispanic population, 67.9% for the non-Hispanic white population and 59.3% for the non-Hispanic black population. Among the other causes of death that negatively contributed to the change in life expectancy, unintentional injuries, homicide and diabetes affected all three Hispanic origin and race groups.
The National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) publishes annual and decennial national life tables based on final vital statistics. To assess the effects on life expectancy of excess mortality observed during 2020, NCHS published provisional life expectancy estimates for the months January through June, 2020 in February 2021.
This report presents updated estimates of life expectancy based on provisional mortality data for the full year, January through December, 2020. These estimates are considered provisional because death certificate information may later be revised, and additional death certificates may be received until approximately 6 months after the end of the year.
The difference in life expectancy between the sexes was 5.7 years in 2020, increasing from 5.1 in 2019. Between 2000 and 2010, the difference in life expectancy between the sexes narrowed from 5.2 years to a low of 4.8 years and then gradually increased to 5.1 in 2019. In 2020, the Hispanic population had a life expectancy advantage of 1.2 years over the non-Hispanic white population, declining from an advantage of 3.0 years in 2019. The Hispanic advantage relative to the non-Hispanic black population decreased from 7.1 to 7.0 years between 2019 and 2020.
The non-Hispanic white life expectancy advantage relative to the non-Hispanic black population increased from 4.1 to 5.8 years between 2019 and 2020. Positive contributions offset each other, then the result would be no change in life expectancy (see Technical Notes for a description of the partitioning method). The decline of 1.5 years in life expectancy between 2019 and 2020 was primarily due to increases in mortality due to COVID-19 (73.8% of the negative contribution), unintentional injuries (11.2%), homicide (3.1%), diabetes (2.5%), and Chronic liver disease and cirrhosis (2.3%).
The decline in life expectancy would have been even greater were it not for the offsetting effects of decreases in mortality due to cancer (45.2%), Chronic lower respiratory diseases (CLRD) (20.8%), heart disease (5.0%), suicide (4.6%), and Certain conditions originating in the perinatal period (4.0%).
For the male population, the 1.8 year decline in life expectancy was mostly due to increases in mortality due to COVID-19 (68.7%), unintentional injuries (14.0%), homicide (4.4%), diabetes (2.4%), and Chronic liver disease and cirrhosis (2.3%). The decline in life expectancy was offset by decreases in mortality due to cancer (51.7%), CLRD (17.5%), Influenza and pneumonia (5.3%), Alzheimer disease (4.7%), and suicide (4.6%).
For females, the decline in life expectancy of 1.2 years was primarily due to increases in mortality due to COVID-19 (79.8%), unintentional injuries (6.8%), diabetes (2.7%), Chronic liver disease and cirrhosis (2.3%), and homicide (1.0%). These effects were offset by decreases in mortality due to cancer (34.7%), CLRD (21.2%), heart disease (16.3%), suicide (4.1%), and stroke (3.7%). The Hispanic population experienced the largest decline in life expectancy between 2019 and 2020 (3.0 years). This decrease was primarily due to increases in mortality due to COVID-19 (90.0%), unintentional injuries (4.2%),