COVID-19 took a toll on the life expectancy of New Yorkers between 2019 and 2020, with the rate falling more than 4.5 years—from 83 to 78, according to a report released Friday by the city’s Department of Health & Mental Hygiene.
The virus, according to Dept. of Health’s “Summary of Vital Statistics” report, was the main reason for the major decline in life expectancy, especially for men and Black New Yorkers.
The pandemic was the cause of 19,224 deaths in New York City in 2020, according to the report, which tracks births and deaths across the five boroughs. The outbreak of the virus resulted in a COVID-19 mortality rate of roughly 241 deaths for every 100,000 people in 2020. The leading causes of death for New Yorkers in 2020, by rank, were: heart disease, COVID-19, malignant neoplasms, diabetes mellitus, and cerebrovascular diseases.
“The pain and trauma experienced by our city is still very real to so many of us,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan, referring to the pandemic. “New Yorkers’ lifespans are falling, on top of years of relative flattening before COVID.”
The life expectancy for men dropped by 5.4 years to 74.5 in 2020, while the life expectancy for women dropped by 3.5 years to 81.4. COVID-19 was the leading cause of death for males in 2020. For women, the leading cause was still heart disease, and COVID-19 the second cause.
New Yorkers with the highest life expectancies in 2020 lived in the neighborhoods of Sunnyside and Woodside in Queens; and Chelsea, Hell’s Kitchen, Midtown Business District, Greenwich Village, Soho, Murray Hill, and the Upper East Side in Manhattan.
The neighborhoods where New Yorkers had the shortest projected lives in 2020 were Brownsville in Brooklyn, the Rockaways in Queens, Central Harlem in Manhattan, and Morrisania and East Tremont in The Bronx.
The pandemic made worse the health inequities for people of color in New York City. Black New Yorkers had the steepest drop in life expectancy, down 5.5 years — to 73 years, after COVID-19 broke out. Hispanic and Latino New Yorkers experienced the second highest decline in life expectancy, down three years — to 77 years, during the same period. Life expectancy for White New Yorkers in 2020 decreased by three years to 80 years.
There was no life expectancy data for Asian and Pacific Islander New Yorkers because the number of Asian and Pacific Islander people for the study was “too small” for the health department’s system to generate life expectancy rates that would be comparable to other races, according to the report.
However, a health department report published in 2021 stated there were more than 2,500 reported deaths among Asian and Pacific Islanders out of the 33,000 reported COVID-19 related deaths in New York City.
The Summary of Vital Statistics report states that the data helps inform the health department’s priorities and “to illuminate the long-term impact of structural racism, particularly for Black New Yorkers.” The department ensured its commitment to address the persistence of racial, ethnic, and neighborhood inequities.
“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,” Vasan said in a statement. “We are putting every ounce of ourselves into achieving that goal, and honor the memory of those lost.”