U.S. life expectancy for babies born in 2022 has increased by approximately one year from 2021, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The figure rose from 76.4 years to 77.5 years, a significant recovery from the decline seen during the COVID-19 pandemic over the last two years. However, it still falls short of the 78.8 years recorded for babies born in 2019.
Recovery Across All Demographic Groups
The increase in life expectancy was observed across all demographic groups. The American Indian and Alaska Native non-Hispanic newborns experienced the largest gain of 2.3 years. This is a significant improvement and highlights the positive progress being made in the face of the pandemic's aftermath.
A Drop in COVID-19 Mortality
The primary driver of the life expectancy gains was a decrease in COVID-19 mortality, accounting for over 80% of the improvements. Other factors such as reduced deaths from heart disease, unintentional injuries, cancer, and homicide also contributed to the extended life expectancies. However, these factors' impact varied among different populations, indicating a complex interplay of variables influencing overall life expectancy.
Lingering Challenges and the Gender Gap
Despite the positive trends, some challenges persist. Increases in mortality due to unintentional injuries in the American Indian and Alaska Native and Hispanic populations, as well as increases in mortality due to perinatal conditions, congenital malformations, kidney disease, nutritional deficiencies, and legal intervention among non-Hispanic Black babies, offset some of the gains. Additionally, the data indicated that life expectancy remains longer for females, although the gap between the sexes has slightly narrowed.
Elizabeth Arias, a researcher at the CDC, cautioned that it will take some time to return to pre-pandemic life expectancy levels. The 2022 data is provisional, with potential changes pending. The road to recovery is long and arduous, but the increasing life expectancy provides a glimmer of hope amid the challenges.