US life expectancy gap widens post-COVID: Study

US life expectancy gap widens post-COVID: Study | Credits: Shutterstock
US life expectancy gap widens post-COVID: Study | Credits: Shutterstock

United States: The global pandemic caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus has brought many changes to the world. Recently, a new study revealed that the life expectancy between men and women in the United States has also witnessed change post-COVID-19.

 According to a study published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, the death rate among men has been experiencing rapid growth since 1996 due to more men dying during the COVID-19 pandemic and drug overdoses. The study was also authored by medical professionals at Harvard University, Boston University, the University of California, and the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

This increase has widened the life expectancy gap between men and women in the United States. According to the stats shared by the study, during 2021 – the latest year in which the data was collected- the life expectancy rate among women was as high as 79.3 years, whereas it was around 73.5 years among men.

The findings also revealed that the life expectancy gap among Americans has witnessed a consistent decrease between 2019 and 2021. The study reported that in 2019, the rate was 78.8 years, which fell to 77.0 years in 2020 and then to 76.1 in 2021.

The issue was addressed by the resident physician at the University of California, San Francisco – Dr Brandon Yan, who is the lead author of the published study. During an interview with the New York Times, Dr Yan expressed his concern related to the new findings.

While expressing his concerns, he told the publication that the figures are very unsettling to see. “We need to understand which groups are particularly losing out on years of life expectancy so interventions can be at least partially focused on these groups,” he was quoted saying further.

In addition to this, he also explained the possible reasons behind the life expectancy gap between both genders in the United States. Dr Yan stated, “All of these point to a picture of worsening mental health across the board, but particularly among men.”

Factors behind the widening of the gap

The study explained that during the period of the COVID-19 pandemic, the life expectancy gap increased by three times to seven and a half months – with women living more lives as compared to men between 2019 and 2021.

The reasons cited by the study were:

  • SARS-CoV-2 virus (COVID)
  • Heart Disease
  • Suicide
  • Accidental Injuries
  • Homicides

The researchers underscored that the COVID deaths were more common among the male population; the reasons for the same were also explained in the study.

The factors include:

  • Differences in health behaviors
  • Higher burden of disease
  • Several socioeconomic factors, such as jobs, incarceration and homelessness.

Why do women outlive men?

According to various reports, the difference in lifestyles of men and women can be one of the major reasons behind the existence of the gap. According to the Population Reference Bureau, men are more likely to smoke and take risks, which leads to such gaps.

Another reason explained by the agency was biological differences. Accordingly, a hormone named Estrogen in women assists in fighting against heart disease and women may also have stronger immune systems than men.

This gap is found in almost every country, according to the Bureau. The average life expectancy for women is 79 years and for men is 72 years. However, it was noted that the gap had widened consistently and dramatically in developed countries like the United States between the 1920s and 1970s.