The current estimated life expectancy of a Black man in the US is now 68 years. That is seven years less than White and Hispanic male life expectancy. It is a gap that cannot be explained entirely by the medical causes of death in the CDC report. To solve the disparity, people must look to the circumstances that lead to a health and social profile of vulnerability to early death.
The CDC Report
The decrease in life expectancy in the US announced today of 1.5 years includes vastly different life expectancy changes for Black people and for Hispanic people, and Hispanic men in particular. The decreases are 3 years for the Hispanic population, to 78.8 years (3.7 years for Hispanic men); 2.9 years for the non-Hispanic Black population, to 71.8 years; 1.2 years for the non-Hispanic white population, to 77.6 years. See the CDC Table for expectancy at each age by race and ethnicity.
The report does not highlight the already low Black male life expectancy and most of the media is focused on the change, not the existing disparity. A gap that had been slowly closing suddenly increased significantly. The CDC classified known “health” causes to the non-Hispanic Black male decrease of 3.3 years. The overall decline in the Black population was attributed to “COVID-19 (59.3%), unintentional injuries (11.9%), homicide (7.7%), heart disease (5.9%), and diabetes (3.6%)” offset by improvements in cancer and some other categories.
How to Speed Up Solutions
Policy change must focus on the social determinants of health and economic opportunity. The frameworks for Justice of Access and Justice of Opportunity apply to the vast differences in opportunity available. Racial progress in diversity and inclusion is slow to address all the underpinnings of the life expectancy numbers.
The attached flipbook is just the very basics on social determinants.