JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri’s life expectancy fell again last year as the state recorded an increase in COVID-19 deaths among younger patients and record opioid overdose deaths.
Overall, life expectancy dropped to 74.6 years last year, down from 75 years the year before, according to a recent report by the Department of Health and Senior Services.
“This is the lowest life expectancy in Missouri in about 40 years,” the report said, noting the state’s pre-pandemic life expectancy of 77.4 years in 2019.
More deaths than births were recorded in 2021 — the second “natural decrease” ever logged in Missouri; the first time was in 2020.
The report found the largest gap in life expectancy between Missouri’s women and men in nearly a quarter-century: male life expectancy stood at 71.7 years while females could expect to live 77.8 years — a 6.1-year difference.
People are also reading…
In 2020, male life expectancy was 72.2 years compared with 78 for females, a 5.8-year difference.
Heart disease and cancer were the two top causes of death last year in Missouri, followed by COVID-19.
According to the report, there were 7,757 COVID-19 deaths last year, a more than 8% increase compared with the first year of the pandemic. The virus is listed as a contributor to 752 additional deaths.
Officials said part of the increase was because the 2020 numbers don’t reflect an entire year of data; the virus emerged in Missouri in March 2020.
The state also noted that COVID-19 deaths among patients younger than 65 more than doubled last year, with 995 people in that category perishing in 2020 compared with 2,432 last year.
“The delta variant prevalent in the summer of 2021 was particularly hard on young people and the fact that elderly Missourians were more fully vaccinated are factors that may have affected the shift to a higher proportion of COVID-related deaths among younger people,” the report said.
It continued that “record opioid overdose deaths and sharp increases in COVID-19 deaths among persons under age 65 contributed to the decrease in life expectancy.”
The report noted that unintentional injuries or accidental deaths increased nearly 9% last year.
“The increase in unintentional injury deaths was primarily associated with drug overdose deaths (accidental poisonings),” the report said.
There were 1,581 opioid-related deaths last year, up 15% compared with the year before and up 45% compared with before the pandemic, the report said.
“Opioid-related deaths increased throughout the state and among both whites and African-Americans,” the report said. “Fentanyl was the principal drug most affecting the continued high rate of opioid deaths as over 90% of the opioid deaths were fentanyl-related.”
The report also said homicides were down 11% last year and that suicides had increased 4%.
“Firearm-related homicides and suicides followed the same pattern as total homicides and suicides, with firearm-related homicides decreasing and suicides increasing,” the report said. “About 64% of suicides were firearm-related while 86% of homicides were in 2021.”