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COVID and Drug Overdoses Lead to Women Outliving Men by Nearly 6 Years: Study

A new study has found that the gender life expectancy gap in the U.S. has increased from 4.8 years in 2020 to 5.8 years in 2021, the largest gap since 1996. The study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine by researchers from San Francisco, Boston, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, attributes this increase to rising deaths from COVID-19 and drug overdoses. Men’s mortality has been affected more than women’s, leading to a wider gender life expectancy gap.

Over the years 2010-2019, the gap increased by 0.23 years, and from 2019 to 2021, it rose by 0.7 years. The main drivers of this trend are drug overdoses and COVID-19 deaths among men, surpassing deaths related to cancer and general respiratory illnesses. The study emphasizes the need for understanding and addressing the factors contributing to increasing mortality among men to reverse the decline in life expectancy in the U.S.

COVID-19 became a leading cause of death nationwide, leading to a decline in the average U.S. life expectancy from 78.8 years in 2019 to 76.1 years in 2021. Before the COVID-19 outbreak, the leading contributor to the worsening life expectancy gap was unintentional injuries or poisonings, including drug overdoses. The study points out that the drug overdose epidemic has widened the life expectancy gap between men and women.

Other factors contributing to the widening gender life expectancy gap include chronic metabolic illnesses and worsening mental health among men. An absolute difference in age-adjusted death rates between men and women increased from 252 to 315 per 100,000 between 2010 and 2021, with persistent and widening gaps for certain causes. The researchers suggest that further research into the drivers of increasing mortality among men is needed to inform targeted public health interventions.

Overall, the study sheds light on the widening gender gap in life expectancy and emphasizes the importance of understanding and addressing the drivers of increasing mortality among men to reverse the troubling decline in life expectancy in the U.S.

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