JERSEY CITY, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — The lifespan for Americans has gotten shorter.

New government data shows life expectancy in the U.S. has reached the lowest level since 2003, with people living on average just over 77 years.

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The biggest culprit? COVID deaths.

Life expectancy in the country declined a year-and-a-half in 2020 — the largest one year drop since World War II, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.

“It is unexpected to see such a decline from one year to the next. Something has to happen for us to see something like that,” Dr. Elizabeth Arias, of the National Center for Health Statistics, said.


As CBS2’s Jessica Layton reported, COVID deaths contributed to nearly three-fourths of the decline, impacting families like the Khans in Jersey City.

“I miss his stories, I miss his wisdom,” said Sabila Khan, who lost her 76-year-old father to COVID last year.

She said she thinks her dad would still be here if not for the virus.

“He was robbed of years of his life,” she told Layton. “We were robbed of him.”

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The pandemic affected life expectancy for some ethnic groups more than others. Hispanics lost three years, non-Hispanic Blacks lost 2.9 years, and non-Hispanic whites lost 1.2 years.

“It highlighted disparities that were already there,” said Dr. Arias.


Men also lost any ground they had been gaining on women’s longevity.

Experts don’t anticipate a rebound this year.

“We will very likely not see the level that we had in 2019, because already so far, we have had an excess of over 200,000 deaths during 2021,” Dr. Arias said.

For Khan, losing her father has changed her perspective.

“I don’t want to have any regrets with my mom,” she said.

She’s keeping her loved ones close.

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CBS2’s Jessica Layton contributed to this report.

CBSNewYork Team