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Covid Caused the Largest Drop in Life Expectancy Seen Over the Past 50+ Years


Friday, March 22nd, 2024


Today’s newsletter is: 942 words; 4 min.


Covid Caused the Largest Drop in Life Expectancy Seen Over the Past 50+ Years


A new study published in The Lancet by researchers at the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation reveals new details about COVID’s impact on mortality around the world, finding global life expectancy fell by 1.6 years from 2019 to 2021, reversing past increases.

What to know: 

  • The researchers analyzed population data across 204 nations, finding life expectancy declined in 84% of countries and territories during the COVID pandemic, causing what co-author Austin Schumacher describes as “a more profound impact than any event seen in half a century, including conflicts and natural disasters.” 

  • The researchers estimate the pandemic caused global mortality among people aged 15 years and older to increase by 22% for males and 17% for females between 2019 to 2021.

Silver lining:

  • While the pandemic indeed caused historic changes in life expectancy among adults, child mortality actually continued to drop globally from 2019 to 2021, falling by around 7% among children under 5.

  • Overall, there were 550,000 fewer deaths among children in 2021 compared to 2019.

Why it matters: 

  • Despite the pandemic’s devastation, killing around 15.9 million people globally, it didn’t completely erase the world’s historic gains in life expectancy since 1950, over which time life expectancy at birth has risen by nearly 23 years.



The U.N. Is Sounding the Alarm on Climate Change

A new report by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) confirmed 2023 was the hottest year on record by a clear margin, as records were once again broken – and in some cases “smashed” – for greenhouse gas emissions, surface temperatures, ocean heat and acidification, sea level rise, ice cover, and glacier retreat.

Red alert: 

  • The report found 2023’s global average near-surface temperature was 1.45°C above the pre-industrial baseline, close to the lower limit set in the 2015 Paris Agreement (1.5°C), albeit on a temporary basis.

  • “Sirens are blaring across all major indicators,” said U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres. “Some records aren’t just chart-topping, they’re chart-busting… The WMO community is sounding the Red Alert to the world.”




Immigrants Are Significantly Less Likely to Commit Crimes than U.S.-Born Americans

A new study by researchers at Northwestern University used incarceration rates as a proxy for crime, finding immigrants over the past 150 years have been consistently less likely to be incarcerated than people born in the U.S.

Incarceration gap: 

  • The team analyzed U.S. Census data dating back to 1870, finding immigrants as a group have never been more incarcerated than those born in the U.S., countering political talking points that suggest immigrants are a criminal threat to society.

  • In fact, according to the study, since 1960, the incarceration gap has widened to such an extent that immigrants today are 60% less likely to be incarcerated than U.S.-born citizens.




Loneliness May Be Endemic Among Middle-Aged Americans

A new study by researchers at Arizona State University found adults aged 45 to 65 in the U.S. are experiencing consistently high levels of loneliness, suggesting the feeling could be endemic, or constantly present, among the group.

Global loneliness: 

  • The study examined adults ages 45-65 in 14 countries, finding middle-aged Americans are lonelier than their same-age peers in Europe and Israel, while loneliness levels are increasing across generations in both the U.S. and Europe.

  • The researchers say middle-aged adults in Denmark, the Netherlands, and Sweden, three countries with strong social safety nets, reported the lowest levels of loneliness, suggesting support programs that aid adult caregivers and provide financial assistance can help reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness among middle-aged adults.


The Oregonian

The Oregon Outback Is Now the World’s Largest Dark Sky Sanctuary

A remote 2.5 million acre swath of land in southeastern Oregon has been named the largest Dark Sky Sanctuary in the world, preserving an area of rugged desert landscape offering visitors an undisturbed view of a large number of stars, planets, and other celestial bodies.

Dark skies:

The designation comes via DarkSky International, a nonprofit dedicated to protecting the nighttime environment and preserving dark skies through environmentally responsible nighttime lighting.

  • The newly certified Oregon Outback International Dark Sky Sanctuary (OOIDSS) adds to the more than 200 Dark Sky Places the group has designated in 22 countries on five continents.

More coming:

Phase 1 of the Oregon sanctuary comprises 2.5 million acres in Lake County, an area about half the size of New Jersey, in a region known as the “Oregon Outback.”

  • When completed, the OOIDSS will cover a massive 11.4 million acres of protected night skies.


  • 6% - The drop in U.S. violent crime in the fourth quarter of 2023 compared to the same period the year before, according to new data released by the FBI. The figure continues a downward trend in violent crime nationwide since 2022.

  • 4 billion tonnes - The estimated additional U.S. carbon emissions by 2030 if Donald Trump wins the 2024 election and rolls back President Joe Biden’s climate policies, according to a new analysis by Carbon Brief. The extra emissions could cause global climate damages worth more than $900 billion.

  • 77.5 years - The average U.S. life expectancy in 2022, up from 76.4 years in 2021, according to a new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Despite the increase, U.S. life expectancy is still below its peak of 78.9 years in 2014.


Long Video. Here’s why U.S. elections only give voters two choices. (10 min)

Short Video. Learn why plastic recycling is a myth and how we can fix it. (8 min)

Fun Video. Learn how humans got hooked on coffee. (6 min)

Good Read. Read about the WWII “ghost army” that fooled Hitler and is now being recognized with Congress’s highest honor. (1,191 words; 5 min)

Neat List. Check out the happiest countries in the world.


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Written by Ryan Wittler