U.S. Life Expectancy Increasing, but So Is Child Death Rate

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March 21, 2024 -- The risk of death due to COVID-19 has declined so much that life expectancy in the U.S. is once again on the rise.

The predicted lifespan rose to 77.5 years in 2022, adding just over an entire year to the life expectancy for babies born in 2022 compared to 2021. The improvement corresponds to a 9% decrease in the nation’s death rate and was primarily driven by a 55% decrease in year-over-year deaths attributed to COVID, according to final data published this week.

The rebound in life expectancy still has not caught up to prepandemic highs. The 2022 life expectancy of 77.5 years is equivalent to life expectancy in the year 2004.

While heart disease and cancer remained the top two causes of death in the nation in 2022, COVID dropped to fourth place. COVID was an underlying cause in the death of 186,552 people in 2022, down from 416,893 in 2021. Unintentional injuries moved into the third place position for leading causes of death.

Women are still expected to live about 5 years longer than men, but the gender gap narrowed slightly in the new estimates. Girls born in 2022 are expected to live to 80.2 years old, while boys are expected to live to age 74.8. Women are now expected to live 5.4 more years than men, down from 5.8 years based on 2021 figures.

The CDC report also estimated the remaining lifespan for people who were age 65 in 2022: Men were expected to live about 18 more years, to age 83, and women were expected to live nearly 19 more years, to age 84.

The new data also showed a concerning trend of increasing death rates among children, including those ages 1 to 4 years old and those ages 5 to 14. The infant mortality rate rose as well. Maternal complications and bacterial infections in newborns increased substantially in reported causes of infant deaths, according to the CDC.

An editorial published last year in the Journal of the American Medical Association said the nation should be alarmed by the increasing death rate among its youngest residents, warning that “this increase in all-cause pediatric mortality has ominous implications. A nation that begins losing its most cherished population—its children—faces a crisis like no other.”