Racial and ethnic differences in life expectancy widened during the pandemic

25 Aug 22

Racial and ethnic differences in life expectancy widened during the pandemic

Work by Nuffield academics finds that the life expectancy of Hispanic and Black men in the US was hit harder during COVID-19.

COVID-19 affected life expectancy around the world. In the US, life expectancy losses were much more significant for Hispanic and Black men than their White counterparts.

The research, published in PNAS, found that 2020 life expectancy in the US was set back 4.5 years for Hispanic men and 3.6 years for Black men, compared to a reduction of 1.5 years for White men.

The increased deaths for Hispanic men were largely accounted for by official COVID-19 deaths, whereas Black Americans also saw increased deaths from cardio-vascular disease and 'deaths of despair'. 

Four key findings of the study were:

  • All groups suffered significant life expectancy losses. Deaths directly due to COVID-19 accounted for most of these.
  • The impact of the pandemic was not just about COVID-19 mortality; more deaths from heart disease and 'deaths of despair' accounted for declines in life expectancy.
  • Working-age deaths accounted for substantial losses, especially among Hispanic populations.
  • The previous life expectancy advantage for Hispanic people compared to the White population was almost eliminated, and the already large gap between Black and White people dramatically increased.

A team of Nuffield academics, based at the Leverhulme Centre for Demographic Science, wrote the paper: Non-Stipendiary Research Fellows José Manuel Aburto and Andrea Tilstra, Postdoctoral Prize Research Fellow Ginevra Floridi and Senior Research Fellow Jennifer Beam Dowd

This news story was first shared on the University of Oxford's news pages.