CDC Says 2020 Was the Deadliest Year in U.S. History

2020 is expected to be the deadliest year in U.S. history, with preliminary numbers suggesting at least 400,000 more deaths this year than in 2019.


Image via Getty/Alex Edelman


2020 is expected to be the deadliest year in U.S. history, with preliminary numbers suggesting that at least 400,000 more deaths will have occurred this year than in 2019.

NBC News reports that the CDC has found that 2020 is on track to see more than 3.2 million deaths this year, though the final mortality data for the year won't be available for a few months. But with coronavirus deaths increasing, it remains likely that the U.S. will top three million deaths in a year for the first time ever. In 2019, life expectancy increased by a number of weeks, but 2020 could see that drop as many as three years, per the CDC.

While deaths in the U.S. usually increase year after year, the annual rise this year is an increase of around 15 percent. That will be the biggest percentage increase for deaths since 1918 (46 percent), when soldiers were dying in World War I and the influenza epidemic struck the country. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, that final figure could be even higher. As of Wednesday, over 320,000 Americans have died as a result of the novel coronavirus.

It's not just coronavirus deaths that have contributed to the high figure, as early information indicates that suicide deaths have not dropped after doing so in 2019. Drug overdose deaths have been significantly higher n 2020, with the CDC reporting over 81,000 drug overdose deaths in the 12 months leading up to May this year. The final numbers for 2020 as a whole are expected to be higher, with experts suggesting the pandemic has disrupted services that would otherwise help those struggling with addiction.

The drugs themselves could be compromised as well, with COVID-19 impacting supplies for dealers leading to deadly drug cocktails with fentanyl being added to drugs like heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine. "I don't suspect there are a bunch of new people who suddenly started using drugs because of Covid," added Syracuse University researcher Shannon Monnat. "If anything, I think the supply of people who are already using drugs is more contaminated."

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