Story at a glance
- Researchers compared life expectancy at birth in 2019 to 2020 and 2021 when COVID-19 cases were surging. Native Americans’ loss in life expectancy at birth in 2020 was more than three years above that for white populations and 1.5 years above losses for Black and Latino populations, according to the study.
Native Americans’ life expectancy dropped by more than six years during the first two years of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new study.
For the study, researchers compared life expectancy at birth in 2019 to 2020 and 2021 when COVID-19 cases were surging. Data was drawn from the CDC’s WONDER online database and the 2019 tables released by the National Vital Statistics System for Native Americans.
They found that the pandemic lowered life expectancy for Native Americans from 72 years in 2019 to around 67 years in 2021 for both sexes combined.
Native Americans loss in life expectancy at birth in 2020 was more than three years above that for white populations and 1.5 years above losses for Black and Latino populations, according to the study.
Several factors may have contributed to the continued decline in expectancy in 2021, despite the emergence of widely available vaccines. These included the emergence of multiple variants that could have evaded any vaccine or natural immunity acquired from previous infection.
“The increased loss in life expectancy in 2021, despite higher vaccination rates than in other racial/ethnic groups, highlights the huge challenges faced by Native Americans in their efforts to control the deleterious consequences of the pandemic,” the researchers wrote.
Further, like the rest of the population, the community suffered from an uptick of chronic disease and substance abuse.
The team noted that the Native American population continues to experience a vast array of health inequities that have lasted for centuries, increasing the risk of infection, hospitalization and death from the virus.