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US Life Expectancy Surged in 2022 as COVID-19 Deaths Declined

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Life expectancy in the United States has witnessed a notable upturn in 2022, following a two-year downturn, according to the latest comprehensive federal mortality data.

In a report recently published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), it was revealed that life expectancy at birth reached 77.5 years in 2022.

While this increase hasn't fully restored pre-pandemic levels, it signifies a significant leap of 1.1 years from 76.4 years in 2021.

A Decline in Overall Mortality Rates

In total, there were 3.27 million recorded deaths in the U.S. in 2022, indicating approximately 184,374 fewer deaths compared to 2021.

The death rate in the U.S. experienced a notable decline, dropping from 879.7 deaths per 100,000 in 2021 to 798.8 in 2022, marking a 9.2% reduction.

Shifting Trends in Causes of Death

Although the top 10 leading causes of death remained consistent between 2021 and 2022, there were some notable changes in their rankings. Heart disease and cancer continued to hold the top two positions, respectively.

Remarkably, COVID-19 descended to become the fourth-leading cause of death in 2022, with unintentional injuries occupying the third position.

Furthermore, the number of deaths attributable to COVID-19 as the underlying cause dropped significantly by 55.3%, declining from 416,893 in 2021 to 186,552 in 2022.

Gender Disparities and Demographic Trends

Both males and females experienced similar increases in life expectancy from 2021 to 2022. Males saw a rise of 1.3 years from 73.5 years to 74.8 years, while females experienced a 0.9-year increase from 79.3 years to 80.2 years.

Across all racial and ethnic groups, there was a decrease in death rates for both males and females. Notably, American Indian/Alaskan Native males exhibited the highest death rates in 2022 but also witnessed the most significant decline over the year.

Age-Specific Patterns

While death rates decreased for nearly every age group, there were exceptions among children. The 1-4 age group experienced a 12% increase in death rates, while the 5-14 age group saw a 7% rise from 2021 to 2022.

A 2023 study highlighted fluctuations in child and adolescent mortality rates, attributing recent increases to various factors including homicides, accidental drug overdoses, car accidents, and suicides.

Infant Mortality and Associated Factors

Contrarily, infant mortality rates experienced a 3.1% increase from 2021 to 2022, rising from 543.6 infant deaths per 100,000 live births to 560.4.

The leading causes of infant death in 2022 included congenital malformations, low birth weight, sudden infant death syndrome, unintentional injuries, maternal complications, cord and placental complications, bacterial sepsis of newborns, respiratory distress of newborns, intrauterine hypoxia and birth asphyxia, and diseases of the circulatory system.

Persisting Challenges in Drug Overdose Deaths

Despite notable improvements in mortality rates across various causes, a separate NCHS report released concurrently found that drug overdose death rates remained relatively unchanged from 2021 to 2022.

While rates involving synthetic opioids other than methadone, such as fentanyl, experienced a slight uptick, other categories of opioid-related deaths witnessed declines.

In summary, while the United States witnessed a positive trajectory in life expectancy and mortality rates in 2022, challenges such as drug overdoses and infant mortality persist, necessitating ongoing public health interventions and strategies.


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