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Infographic – Covid-19 Slashes U.S. Life Years

Chart: life years lost

(CDC, Pew Research Center)

19 June 2021. Data compiled for the year 2020 show Covid-19 is responsible for an average loss of life years in the U.S. comparable to leading chronic diseases. Data collected by the Pew Research Center show an average loss of 14 life years for each death from Covid-19 in the U.S., similar to the 13 life years lost per death from heart disease and not far from the 17 years lost due to cancer and diabetes.

Pew Research Center statisticians computed average life years lost with provisional Covid-19 mortality statistics for 2020, the best full-year data available from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Pew team compared the 2020 data to 2019 calculations for other causes of death. Provisional data for other causes of death in 2020 are not yet available from CDC.

Life years lost are computed from the age of individuals at their time of death for each cause compared to overall life expectancy for people that age. For example, if someone with a life expectancy of 80 years dies at age 50, that person is losing 30 years of life. By that measure, accidents and liver diseases such as cirrhosis take the most years off average life expectancy in the U.S., 31 and 24 years respectively.

Pew researchers also calculated the total number of life years lost from different causes in the U.S. Those data show some 5.45 million total life years were lost in 2020 from Covid-19, somewhat more than the 5.32 million life years lost due to accidents in 2019. Cancer and heart disease are responsible for the most total life years lost in the U.S. in 2019 with 10.2 and 8.9 million respectively.

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