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COVID-19 has cut US life expectancy by a year. With some racial groups it's even higher

CDC data shows the average life expectancy in the U.S. has dropped to 77.8 years, a one year drop since 2019.

MINNEAPOLIS — The average life expectancy in the U.S. has dropped by nearly a year since the pandemic started.

It's the steepest drop since WWII, according to a new study released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

University of Minnesota sociology professor Elizabeth Wrigley-Field says the numbers show significant disparities between various racial groups.

She says there have always been disparities between the white, Black and Hispanic populations when it comes to life expectancy, but this study shows how the pandemic has made those gaps even wider.

"In total the CDC is projecting that the life expectancy drop in the population as a whole will be about one year,” Wrigley-Field says.

"But the drop is much larger for racial groups, for example in the Black population, 2.7 years."

Before the pandemic, Wrigley-Field says the gap between the white and Black population had shrunk significantly over the last 20 years.

However, the pandemic has wiped out all of that progress in just a few months.

"Part of what I think these results are also showing us is that we have not done enough to make the pandemic survivable for people, not just physically, but socially and economically, and that has real consequences for death,” Wrigley-Field says.

The drop in life expectancy was also higher for the Hispanic population, nearly two years, two times higher than the national average.

She says these numbers should be a wakeup call for policy makers and health professionals who have the power to make a real difference in closing these gaps.

"These numbers are a really stark wakeup call about how big the COVID disparities have been."

It's important to note that this study only goes up until June of last year.

That's only a few months into the pandemic.

So, we could see these racial disparities shrink or get even worse when more data becomes available.

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