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Life Expectancy, Child Deaths on the Rise

Life expectancy
Pedestrians walking in city | Image by Freepik

The latest federal report on mortality in the United States suggests that although the death rate has declined since the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of child deaths is reason for concern.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released data on Thursday showing that while Americans’ life expectancy rose by 1.1 years between 2021 and 2022, it is still lagging behind pre-COVID-19 levels. For instance, the life expectancy in 2019 was 78.8 years compared to 77.5 years in 2022.

As Dr. Steven Woolf, director emeritus of the Virginia Commonwealth University Center on Society and Health, told CNN, life expectancy data is important since it “gives us a snapshot of the health of a population.”

For instance, heart disease remains the leading cause of death, followed by cancer and unintentional injuries. Deaths attributable to COVID-19 dropped between 2021 and 2022 by 57.3%. The persistence of heart disease as a major killer of Americans can be attributed to the ever-increasing prevalence of obesity.

Obesity is a chronic disease that heightens the risk of an array of negative health outcomes, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, depression, and certain types of cancer. Obesity recently became the leading public health issue worldwide after the number of people considered to be clinically obese exceeded 1 billion, as covered in The Dallas Express. In Texas, the CDC flagged an alarming adult obesity rate of 35.5% in 2022.

The latest data signals some other alarming health trends, such as child death rates increasing in several age brackets. For instance, the infant mortality rate increased by 3.1% between 2021 and 2022. Yet even more worrying, the death rate among children ages 1 to 4 and ages 5 to 14 rose by 12% and 7%, respectively, over that same period.

“This is a red flashing light about the poor health status of Americans and how it now puts our children at risk,” Woolf told CNN. “This trend does not explain decreases in life expectancy for the total population, which is driven by deaths in adults, but it is alarming nonetheless because it means that our children, our most cherished population, are less likely to survive to adulthood.”

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