Native American lifespans have shrunk by almost 5 years during the pandemic – Consumer Health News
TUESDAY, June 14, 2022 (HealthDay News) — In another sign that the pandemic has exacerbated health care disparities, researchers report that Native American life expectancies plummeted nearly five years as the novel coronavirus raged across the country.
The loss of longevity was far greater than that of any other ethnic group and about three times greater than that of whites.
Investigators also found that while comparable countries around the world rebounded in 2021 after a historic decline in life expectancy in 2020, the overall death rate in the United States rose further.
“With the wide availability of vaccines in the United States, there was a lot of optimism that 2021 would be better than 2020,” said study co-author Ryan Masters, assistant professor of sociology at the Institute. University of Colorado at Boulder.
“That didn’t happen,” he noted in a university press release. “The United States has not taken COVID seriously to the extent that other countries have, and we have paid a horrific price for it, with blacks and browns suffering the most.”
Masters and his colleagues analyzed US death data from 2019 and 2020, as well as preliminary data for 2021.
In 2019, Native American life expectancy was already the lowest of any racial/ethnic group – 75 years for females and 68.6 years for males. In 2021, those numbers have dropped to 70.4 for women and just under 64 for men.
“Native American populations have been ostracized and pushed to extremes in the history of this country, so we expected to see a drop in life expectancy,” Masters said.
Native Americans often lack access to vaccines, quality health care and transportation, he noted.
“But the magnitude [of the decrease in life expectancy] was shocking,” Masters added. “You just don’t see numbers like that in advanced countries these days.
The researchers also found that the overall life expectancy in the United States fell from 78.85 years in 2019 to 76.98 years in 2020 and 76.44 years in 2021, a loss of 2.41 years.
In contrast, comparable countries lost 0.55 years of life expectancy between 2019 and 2020 and recorded an increase of 0.26 between 2020 and 2021.
Social inequalities, systemic racism and health disparities, such as high rates of obesity and heart disease, that existed before the pandemic are to blame for the dismal trends in the United States, according to Masters.
When focused only on 2021, the researchers found that white Americans had the largest decline in life expectancy of any U.S. racial group, possibly due to high rates of vaccine hesitancy and resistance to preventive measures.
The study was posted on the MedRxiv preprint server and has not yet been peer-reviewed.
In a previous study, the same team found that overall life expectancy in the United States fell by almost two years between 2019 and 2020, the biggest drop since World War II. The largest declines were seen among Hispanics (nearly four years) and blacks (3.25 years), compared to 1.36 years among whites.
For more information on life expectancy in the United States, see the US National Center for Health Statistics.
SOURCE: University of Colorado Boulder, press release, June 9, 2022