Researchers from UC San Francisco and Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health have discovered that the life expectancy gap between American men and women has been growing for over ten years. This increase is partially due to COVID-19 and the opioid crisis, among other factors.
A study released on November 13, 2023, in JAMA Internal Medicine reports that the lifespan difference has reached 5.8 years in 2021 – the biggest since 1996 and a jump from just 4.8 years back in 2010.
Between 2019 and 2021, the pandemic heavily impacted men’s mortality, with drug overdoses and accidents also playing significant roles in expanding this gap.
In 2021, America’s average life expectancy fell to 76.1 years, down from 78.8 years in 2019 and marginally higher at 77 years in 2020.
A decline in Americans’ lifespans is partly blamed on what are known as “deaths of despair” – deaths linked to suicide, drug and alcohol abuse often associated with financial trouble, emotional distress, and stress.
Using health statistics data researchers across the US pinpointed death causes most affecting longevity. They evaluated how these causes influenced the life expectancy differences between genders.
Before COVID-19 hit, unintentional injuries, diabetes, suicides, homicides and heart conditions were leading in shortening lives.
However, during the health crisis men succumbed more to the virus than women. Several factors played into this: healthcare habits; social issues like job exposure risks, hesitancy to get medical help; incarceration; unstable living conditions; chronic health problems; mental illnesses; and gun violence were also factors.