Indigenous American Life Expectancy Falls

By Lou Portero - Last Updated: September 8, 2022

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) just revealed that from 2019 to 2021, Indigenous American life expectancy fell from 71.8 years to 65.2.  Indigenous Americans lost nearly seven years, more than any other ethnic group in the US.  Life expectancy gaps among ethnic/racial groups have widened overall, but Indigenous Americans now have the lowest life expectancy of any ethnic group in the US.  This is five years lower than African Americans and ten years lower than non-Hispanic White Americans or Hispanics.

While Covid is primarily to blame, it is not the only reason for this decline.  According to data from the CDC, vaccination rates among Indigenous Americans are higher than among Black or Hispanic Americans.  It seems that other factors, besides vaccination rates, are to blame.  Indigenous Americans have some of the highest rates of health conditions, such as obesity and diabetes, comorbidities that make a person much more likely to die from Covid. Chronic liver disease and cirrhosis also contribute to worse death rates.

Cultural and language barriers, inaccessible health care, and high poverty rates also have contributed to the higher than average Indigenous American death rate from Covid.  High poverty rates contribute to stress, but many Indigenous Americans live in overcrowded, multigenerational homes. If one family member becomes sick, they can easily spread the virus to the rest of the family. For White, Hispanic, and Black communities, the existence of one or some of these issues has made Covid deadlier. Indigenous American communities are dealing with all of these challenges at once.

The increased death rate experienced by Indigenous Americans teaches us that the fight against Covid is not the only factor to consider.  Improving health outcomes overall for all ethnic-racial groups is imperative to reverse the trend of lower life expectancy.


Sources: CDC; CDC Fast Stats; Forbes




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