BY JEANETTE LENOIR
Black folks are still dying at an alarming rate compared to other ethnic groups in America. The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) published a new Yale study that sheds more light on racial disparities in the U.S. regarding life expectancy for Black folks. The alarming new study shows Black people still suffer from illnesses at higher rates and die younger than white people. However, the study also revealed that the higher mortality rate for Black Americans translates to 1.63 million excess deaths compared to white people. This study is over the course of more than 20 years.
According to the report, the staggering higher mortality rate for Black folks from 1999 to 2020 led to the loss of more than 80 million years of life in comparison to white folks. Key points of the findings are below.
May 16, 2023
Excess Mortality and Years of Potential Life Lost Among the Black Population in the US, 1999-2020
Question: How many excess deaths and years of potential life lost for the Black population, compared with the White population, occurred in the United States from 1999 through 2020?
Findings: Based on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data, excess deaths and years of potential life lost persisted throughout the period, with initial progress followed by stagnation of improvement and substantial worsening in 2020. The Black population had 1.63 million excess deaths, representing more than 80 million years of potential life lost over the study period.
Meaning: After initial progress, excess mortality and years of potential life lost among the US Black population stagnated and then worsened, indicating a need for new approaches.
Importance: Amid efforts in the US to promote health equity, there is a need to assess recent progress in reducing excess deaths and years of potential life lost among the Black population compared with the White population.
Objective: To evaluate trends in excess mortality and years of potential life lost among the Black population compared with the White population.
Design, setting, and participants: Serial cross-sectional study using US national data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from 1999 through 2020. We included data from non-Hispanic White and non-Hispanic Black populations across all age groups.
Exposures: Race as documented in the death certificates.
Main outcomes and measures: Excess age-adjusted all-cause mortality, cause-specific mortality, age-specific mortality, and years of potential life lost rates (per 100 000 individuals) among the Black population compared with the White population.
Results: From 1999 to 2011, the age-adjusted excess mortality rate declined from 404 to 211 excess deaths per 100 000 individuals among Black males (P for trend <.001). However, the rate plateaued from 2011 through 2019 (P for trend = .98) and increased in 2020 to 395—rates not seen since 2000. Among Black females, the rate declined from 224 excess deaths per 100 000 individuals in 1999 to 87 in 2015 (P for trend <.001). There was no significant change between 2016 and 2019 (P for trend = .71) and in 2020 rates increased to 192—levels not seen since 2005. The trends in rates of excess years of potential life lost followed a similar pattern. From 1999 to 2020, the disproportionately higher mortality rates in Black males and females resulted in 997 623 and 628 464 excess deaths, respectively, representing a loss of more than 80 million years of life. Heart disease had the highest excess mortality rates, and the excess years of potential life lost rates were largest among infants and middle-aged adults.
Conclusions and relevance: Over a recent 22-year period, the Black population in the US experienced more than 1.63 million excess deaths and more than 80 million excess years of life lost when compared with the White population. After a period of progress in reducing disparities, improvements stalled, and differences between the Black population and the White population worsened in 2020.