Many people lost their jobs due to the pandemic. People in lockdown also were more likely to eat poorly, drink more alcohol and use drugs. Schold noted that overdoses have increased during the pandemic, a sign that progress has faltered in the nation’s struggle with its opioid epidemic.
Further, a substantial number of people who did contract COVID-19 have suffered long-term health problems that could ultimately limit their life span, Schold added.
“I don’t think necessarily we’re going to be just as healthy this summer or fall, once — hopefully — all of the direct effects of COVID have been attenuated,” he said. “We know there are a lot of consequences of COVID that are beyond direct mortality.”
Schold cautioned that the CDC numbers are preliminary and only represent half a year, but added that, “It’s something we need to be very vigilant about, partly because the long-term consequences of all this are going to take quite some time to evolve.”
Experts concluded that American life expectancy could falter for years to come, based on the multitude of pandemic-related factors that affect health in ways direct and indirect.
Dr. Robert Glatter is an emergency medicine physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. He said, “The adverse impact of COVID-19 on life expectancy, while clearly apparent now, will continue to have its effects for decades to come. The rippling effects of COVID-19 are leaving a trail of death and destruction. We must do everything we can to intervene and break this deadly cycle.”
The new report, by Elizabeth Arias and colleagues at the NCHS, was published Feb. 18 in the Vital Statistics Rapid Release.
The U.S. National Center for Health Statistics has more about life expectancy research.
SOURCES: Georges Benjamin, MD, executive director, American Public Health Association, Washington, D.C.; Teresa Murray Amato, MD, chair, emergency medicine, Long Island Jewish Forest Hills, New York City; Juan Wisnivesky, MD, DrPH, chief, internal medicine, Mount Sinai Health System, New York City; Jesse Schold, PhD, director, Cleveland Clinic Lerner Research Institute’s Center for Populations Health Research; Robert Glatter, MD, emergency medicine physician, Lenox Hill Hospital, New York City; Vital Statistics Rapid Release, Feb. 18, 2021