2020 Named Deadliest Year in U.S. History

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The U.S. has been leading with the highest amount of COVID-19 cases around the world, and now it is about to break another devastating record. 2020 has become the deadliest year in American history, predicted to exceed 3 million deaths by the end of the year. Final mortality data for this year will not be available for months. 

COVID-19 has killed more than 318,000 Americans and counting. Before coronavirus came along, there was reason to be hopeful about U.S. death trends. Final mortality data for this year will not be available for months. But preliminary numbers suggest that the United States is on track to see more than 3.2 million deaths this year, or at least 400,000 more than in 2019.

It has been typical for death rates to rise each year in the U.S., but the 2020 numbers amount to a jump of about 15 percent and could continue to rise when numbers come in after the end of the year, which is just a few days away.

Causes of death

It is for certain that COVID-19 has been the leading cause of the record-breaking death rates, but there are other factors in play. First, the burst of pneumonia cases early this year may have been COVID-19 deaths that simply weren’t recognized as such early in the pandemic. But there also has been an unexpected number of deaths from certain types of heart and circulatory diseases, diabetes, and dementia.

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Many of those illnesses are correlated to coronavirus. The virus continues to infect already weakened patients and those struggling with pre-existing conditions, or the economic struggle could have diminished the care they were getting prior to the pandemic.

It has been a grim year

With the devastation that comes with social isolation, job loss, sickness, and death, mourning has become associated with the year 2020. Though suicide deaths dropped in 2019, early information suggests they have not continued to drop this year. Meanwhile, the number of drug overdose-related deaths in the U.S. has increased substantially. 

Before the coronavirus even arrived, the U.S. was in the midst of the deadliest drug overdose epidemic in its history. Data for all of 2020 is not yet available. But last week the CDC reported more than 81,000 drug overdose deaths in the 12 months ending in May, making it the highest number ever recorded in a one-year period.

What now?

Now America waits to see how much damage the holiday season will bring to the already devastating numbers. If you are feeling depressed or dealing with substance abuse, please contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (available 24 hours) 1-800-273-8255.

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