Due to differences in COVID-19 and drug overdose mortality, women in the United States may anticipate living over six years longer than men, which is the most significant difference in life expectancy in decades.
According to the CDC, the country's overall life expectancy decreased by more than 2.5 years from the pandemic's beginning, which was at 76.1 years in 2021.
Men's and women's life expectancies were impacted, albeit not equally.
Women have always lived longer than males, with the 2010 gap being the smallest at 4.8 years. However, the difference increased by 0.7 years in the first two years of the COVID-19 pandemic and by 0.2 years in the following decade.
Women's life expectancy was 79.3 years in 2021, while men's was 73.5 years. This 5.8-year discrepancy was the most since 1996.
However, a recent study found that males have far higher mortality rates from many other significant causes of death than women and that this difference is growing as a result of several converging variables.
The leading causes of the widening disparity in life expectancy between 2010 and 2019 were the larger rates of death among males from heart disease, diabetes, accidental accidents, suicide, and homicide.
More comparable death rates from cancer and Alzheimer's disease among men and women helped to close part of that disparity.
Amidst the pandemic, variations in COVID-19 death rates emerged as the primary driver of the growing disparity in female life expectancy.
Per the study, the age-adjusted mortality rate for COVID-19 in 2021 was 131 deaths per 100,000 males and 82 deaths per 100,000 women. This disparity in mortality rates resulted in a 0.33-year change in life expectancy since 2019.
There has been a 0.27-year difference in life expectancy since 2019 because males were more than twice as likely as women to die from accidental accidents between 2010 and 2021. Drug overdoses accounted for the great majority of unintended injuries.
The study found that a little reduction in cancer mortality among men and an increase in maternity deaths among women "partially mitigated the increasing gap."
The study's authors concluded that COVID-19 and the drug overdose crisis mainly caused the growing gender disparity in life expectancy in recent years.
They suggested that greater rates of comorbidities and health-related behaviors among males, together with certain socioeconomic variables like homelessness and imprisonment rates, might be contributing contributors to this discrepancy.
The team concludes: "The increase in overdose deaths, homicide, and suicide underscore twin crises of deaths from despair and firearm violence."
- JAMA Network Open. Widening Gender Gap in Life Expectancy in the US, 2010-2021.
- CDC. Life Expectancy.