Pandemic And Overdoses Drive Record Gender Disparity In US Life Expectancy: Research

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This is the largest difference in the US since 1996.

The Researcher also pointed out that no one has systematically analysed why the gap between men and women has been widening since 2010.

Research indicates that women in the United States can anticipate living almost six years longer than men, marking the widest life expectancy gap in decades. Disparities in deaths from COVID-19 and drug overdoses contribute to this gap, as revealed by a study conducted by the University of California, San Francisco, and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, published on November 13, 2023, in JAMA Internal Medicine. The authors note a life expectancy difference of 5.8 years in 2021, the largest in the US since 1996, compared to 4.8 years in 2010, the narrowest gap in recent years.

The pandemic played a pivotal role in the widening gap between 2019 and 2021, with a disproportionate toll on men. Unintentional injuries and poisonings, primarily attributed to drug overdoses, accidents, and suicide, further contributed to the widening gender disparity. Bradon Yan, the study’s first author and a UCSF internal medicine resident physician, emphasized that while both genders experienced rising death rates from drug overdoses and homicides, men represented an increasingly disproportionate share of these fatalities.

Utilising data from the National Center for Health Statistics nationwide, the researchers identified causes of death significantly impacting life expectancy. Pre-pandemic, deaths were primarily attributed to unintentional injuries, diabetes, suicide, homicide, and heart disease. However, during the pandemic, men were more likely to succumb to the virus due to various factors such as disparities in health behaviours, social factors, work-related exposure risks, housing instability, incarceration, and reluctance to seek timely medical attention.

Yan expressed concern about the widening gap and suggested that the study’s findings prompt consideration of developing more specialized care, particularly in mental health, to address the increasing disparity in life expectancy between men and women. Co-author Howard Koh, a professor at Harvard Chan School, emphasized the need to examine whether these trends changed post-2021.

In 2021, women’s life expectancy was 79.3 years compared to 73.5 years for men. However, the study’s limitation includes a binary classification of gender and, a lack of exploration of overlap across diseases and various demographic subgroups.

The results show the urgency of addressing the multifaceted factors contributing to the widening gender gap in life expectancy, with potential implications for healthcare policies and targeted interventions.

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