Global life expectancy has declined for the first time since the 1950s, in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis. This worrying trend could be compounded by a global food security crisis and the impact of climate change.
Global life expectancy declined by 1.64 years between 2019 and 2021 in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic according to academic research from the University of California.
US life expectancy decreased from 78.85 years in 2019 to 76.44 years in 2021, a net loss of 2.41 years. Across a group of 21 advanced countries life expectancy decreased by 0.58 years between 2019 and 2020. Spain, Belgium, Italy saw declines in life expectancy of more than a year, driven by increased mortality in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Shocks such as wars pandemics, famines and genocides have impacted life expectancy trends over the past century. Worldwide life expectancy has been on the rise since 1800. World War One and Two reversed this trend in the UK, US and Japan, while the AIDS crisis reversed progress in South Africa during the 1990s.
However, this is the first time that life expectancy has decreased on a global scale since the United Nations started gathering this data in 1950.