2020 Vital Statistics Report Reveal Toll Of COVID-19 On NYkers And Life Expectancy

April 7, 2023

The Health Department today released its Annual Summary of Vital Statistics covering the year 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic wrought a terrible toll from Harlem to Hollis.

The pandemic, along with other events like the overdose crisis, are contributing to shorter lives in New York City.

“The pain and trauma experienced by our city is still very real to so many of us,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan. “This report is an important record of what we’ve been through and all that we lost. It also reflects the importance of this moment. New Yorkers’ lifespans are falling, on top of years of relative flattening before COVID, and that cannot continue. It is the great challenge of our time, our city, and our Department to lay out an agenda for the next era of public health, to reverse these trends, and set us out on a new path where all New Yorkers can lead healthier, longer lives. We are putting every ounce of ourselves into achieving that goal, and honor the memory of those lost, as we do.”

The pandemic resulted in a COVID-19 mortality rate of 241.3 deaths per 100,000 population in 2020, its impact exceeding the 1918 influenza pandemic in New York City, which had a flu mortality rate of 228.9 deaths per 100,000 population.

Overall life expectancy fell to 78 years. The pandemic also exacerbated existing inequities. For example, life expectancy fell to 73 years among Black New Yorkers (down 5.5 years from 2019); 77.3 years among Hispanic/Latino New Yorkers (down six years from 2019); and 80.1 years among White New Yorkers (which represents a decrease of three years). The 2020 report also documents the effect of the pandemic by geography and occupation.

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Falling life expectancy reversed years of progress in extending New Yorkers’ lives. For example, New York City’s age-adjusted premature death rate (age <65 years) decreased by 8.6% from 2011 to 2019. However, between 2019 and 2020, the age-adjusted premature death rate sharply increased by 48.8%, from 180.2 per 100,000 population to 268.2 per 100,000 population.

In addition, the unintentional drug overdose rate continued to rise, with a 42.2% increase from 2019. In 2020, the drug-related death rate was highest among Black New Yorkers. The drug-related death rate for 55–64-year-olds was higher than all other age groups.

The Health Department’s inclusion of this data informs the agency’s programmatic priorities. The DOHMH is committed to using data to address the persistence of racial/ethnic and neighborhood inequities as well as to inform future strategic decisions.

The Adams Administration has already launched a plan to reduce overdose deaths by 15 percent by 2025 and double the number of New Yorkers in mental health services. This will directly confront one of the leading drivers of early death in our city. However, the Health Department also recognizes chronic conditions, like heart disease, are taking too many lives far too soon. Over the coming months, the city will develop and announce a plan to help New Yorkers live longer, healthier lives.

The Annual Summary of Vital Statistics, the Health Department’s yearly report of births and deaths in New York City, is compiled by the agency’s Bureau of Vital Statistics. Its tables, graphs and figures present health statistics according to racial/ethnic group, gender, age, neighborhood poverty, community district and borough of residence. Death rates are age-adjusted when the adjustment facilitates comparisons over time and among geographic areas. Vital Statistics Annual Summaries as far back as 1961 are available at nyc.gov/health.

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