But these declines, while unusual, were small – measured in small fractions of a year. Researchers knew there would be a drop last year, but the magnitude of the first six months left them in shock: the drop brought life expectancy to the lowest level since 2006. The last major drop was 2.9 years between 1942 and 1943, after the United States. States entered World War II, Dr Arias said.
Researchers say Thursday’s numbers are important because they are a digital representation of the scale of the current coronavirus crisis. They may not represent a trend that will continue in the future, but they say a lot about the extent of the suffering that many American communities are going through in the present, such as the Brightmoor neighborhood in Detroit, where Reverend Semmeal Thomas , 60, pastor of City Covenant Church, helped his congregation come to terms with grief.
He said about 10 people he was about to die from Covid-19, including his 40-year-old niece, who had just married and was working on his doctorate, and his close friend’s wife , who was his 60th birthday. A number of middle-aged people in his church also died. Some had pre-existing conditions, such as diabetes and high blood pressure, but they managed them.
“If Covid hadn’t come, Ruthie Harris would still be there, Jackie would still be there, Michael would still be there, Taisha would still be there,” he said. “It has given us in the African American community this tremendous sense of grief.”
Covid-19 has hit black and Hispanic Americans harder than white Americans. People in these first two groups who died from the virus were also more likely to be younger, slicing deeper into the life expectancy numbers, Dr Bassett said. She said the coronavirus death rate among blacks aged 35 to 44, for example, was nine times that of whites in the same age group, according to data from February through July last.
Overall, the death rate for black Americans with Covid-19 was almost twice that of white Americans at the end of January, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Hispanics had a death rate 2.3 times that of white Americans.
The 2.7-year drop in life expectancy for African Americans from January to June of last year was the biggest drop, followed by a 1.9-year drop for Hispanic Americans and 0 , 8 years for white Americans.