Americans lost more years of life to COVID in 2020 than to all accidents in a typical year

The same figures reveal that the average number of life years lost per U.S. coronavirus death in 2020 was 14 years. This is comparable to the average number of years lost per heart disease death in the U.S. in 2019 (13 years) and somewhat lower than the average number of years lost per cancer or diabetes death that year (17 years). But it is far below the average number of years lost per liver disease (24 years) or accidental death (31 years).

The large number of life years lost due to COVID-19 in 2020 may not be widely appreciated because people ages 65 and older account for a large majority (approximately 80%) of U.S. coronavirus deaths to date. Some observers have raised the point that the public may believe that these older Americans were nearing the end of their lives anyway.

But life expectancy statistics tell a different story. In fact, life expectancy increases with age. While babies born in the U.S. today can expect to live to be 79, Americans who are 65 today can expect to live to 85, according to the United Nations World Population Prospects. Current 80-year-olds, in turn, can expect to live to an average age of 90.