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Life expectancy among Native Americans dropped by nearly five years during pandemic

The Navajo Nation implemented a three-week extension on current coronavirus lockdown measures to curtail a severe second surge of the outbreak
MARK RALSTON
/
AFP via Getty Images
The Navajo Nation implemented a three-week extension on current coronavirus lockdown measures to curtail a severe second surge of the outbreak

New research shows COVID-19 caused life expectancy to drop for all groups of Americans, but none as much as American Indians and Native Alaskans.

Research from the University of Colorado estimates that during the 2020-2021 pandemic, life expectancy for U-S Native Americans declined by nearly five years, about three times that of whites. Co-author Ryan Masters, Assistant Professor of sociology at the University of Colorado, said after noting that longevity had slipped three-and-a-quarter years among Black Americans and nearly four years among Hispanics, he didn't expect worse news.

"The horrific drops among Hispanic population were really sobering, and so we were expecting something of that magnitude, but to see declines that were even greater was really a tragic, terrifying result that we saw," Masters said.

Native Americans make up just one-point-seven percent of the U-S population. Masters said by 2021, life expectancy for Native Americans had slipped to about age 70 for women, and just under 64 for men. Overall, U.S. life expectancy decreased from around 79 years in 2019 to about 76 years in 2021.

"There was also some substantial losses of life in these mid-life years, due to cardio-metabolic diseases, drug overdoses, and unfortunately due to injuries caused by firearms and transportation accidents," Masters said.

Masters said a similar life-expectancy decline hasn't been seen since World War II. The study, which has not been peer-reviewed, noted that nearly one-million Americans died from COVID-19 during the two-year pandemic, blamed partly on the quality of public health options and the high cost of insurance and prescription drugs.

Caroline Long is a science reporter at UPR. She is curious about the natural world and passionate about communicating her findings with others. As a PhD student in Biology at Utah State University, she spends most of her time in the lab or at the coyote facility, studying social behavior. In her free time, she enjoys making art, listening to music, and hiking.