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Disease And Life Expectancy In The U.S.: What Doesn’t Kill Us Makes Us Stronger

Published: March 11, 2022

Ways To Die And Life Expectancy

 It’s a  dangerous world out there. The International Classification of Diseases (ICD) lists no fewer than 113 ways we can die. They range from the most common — heart disease and cancer — to other more obscure but still-lethal conditions such as whooping cough and meningococcal infection.

Latest figures from the National Center for Health Statistics show that life expectancy in the United States currently stands at 77 years — 74.2 for men, 79.9 for women — which represents a decrease of 1.8 years from the pre-COVID era. That’s the bad news.

Life Expectancy In The U.S.

life expectancy

The good news is that this is the first time life expectancy in the U.S. has decreased in modern times. Over the years our life expectancy has gone up dramatically. For comparison, in our grandparents’ day, life expectancy was roughly 62 years — or 15 years less than it is now.

Of course, how long we live depends on who we are. Most of us make it to our 70s, but not all of us. A dozen people from my high-school class of 105 students have already passed away from one cause or another. And averages don’t say very much. On average my wife’s parents lived to age 75 — her father died in his late 40s, her mother lived to age 103. 

Women live longer than men. Whites live longer than blacks. Hispanics live longest of all. A black male has a life expectancy at birth of just 72 years. A white female can expect to live to 83, and a female Hispanic has a life expectancy of 84. Meanwhile, those of us who have already made it to 65 can expect to live another 20 years or so — a little more for women, a little less for men. And a few of us will make it to 103.

Life Expectancy And COVID-19

Last year’s decrease in life expectancy was largely due to COVID-19 which has killed almost a million Americans (953,000 at last count). For the past two years it has been the third leading cause of death in our country, after heart disease and cancer. (Death by vaccine, or vaccine-related problems, is possible, but extremely rare. Also, the idea that vaccines cause autism is fiction. The only study ever linking the two was shown to have faulty data, and the lead scientist fudged the results.)

Anyway, in addition to COVID, other causes of death have also increased in the past two years. The biggest killer, especially in our age group, is heart disease. Deaths from heart disease have increased by 4%. Why? No one knows for sure. But it’s likely because people have been avoiding going to the doctor due to the restrictions of COVID.

Deaths by “unintentional injuries” — including suicides, car accidents and drug overdoses — have also increased in the past two years. The stress, the boredom, the ennui and loneliness brought on by self-isolating have all contributed to more common and more severe mental-health problems.

So for those of us who have survived COVID, I guess the message is: go to the doctor. We need to get our checkups and usual medical tests… and pay attention to our mental health, whether it involves meditation, yoga, long walks in the woods — or consulting a mental-health professional if we’re feeling that things are getting out of control.

Let’s all hope the worst of COVID is behind us — and we can resume our normal lives and live out our expected lifespans, knowing that what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.

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About The Author
Tom Lashnits
Tom Lashnits
Tom Lashnits spent 40 years in New York book and magazine publishing before retiring to Bucks County, PA, in 2017. He now volunteers in the school system, produces the baby boomer blog Sightings Over Sixty . . . and is just starting to chase after grandchildren.
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