U.S. Life Expectancy Dropped By 29 Months Between 2019 and 2021

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Researchers are just starting to understand what the COVID-19 pandemic has done to life expectancy figures in countries all around the world.

Ryan Masters and two colleagues, Laudan Aron and Dr. Steven Woolf, have provided an early look at the 2021 numbers for 22 rich regions in a new preprint on the medRxiv website.

Between 2019 — before the pandemic came to widespread public attention — and 2021, the median life expectancy dropped by about 3.2 months. The changes ranged from an increase of 4.3 months in Norway to a decrease of 29 months.

For a look at what happened to life expectancy over that two-year period in 10 of the harder-hit regions, see the slideshow gallery.

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What It Means

The researchers have shown what COVID-19 itself, efforts to fight the pandemic and the indirect effects of the pandemic have collectively done to one of your clients’ most precious assets: their years of life.

For life insurance and annuity issuers, more complete, more detailed life expectancy data could affect the prices of products such as life insurance and annuities. Drops in U.S. life expectancy could increase clients’ life insurance premiums and reduce annuity costs.

The Paper

A preprint is a research paper that has not yet been through a full peer review process.

The Masters team compiled 2019, 2020 and preliminary 2021 life expectancy figures for the United States and 21 other rich, highly developed regions, including three separate parts of the United Kingdom — England and Wales; Northern Ireland, and Scotland.

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The team was not able to include some other U.S. peers, such as Japan.

Life expectancy dropped in 15 of the 22 regions included between 2019 and 2020, and five of the 22 regions between 2020 and 2021.

The results for Scotland, Northern Ireland, and England and Wales were clustered together. In the gallery, we included only the figures for England and Wales.

(Image: Adobe Stock)

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