Covid deaths plummeted in 2022, CDC data shows

The decline of the pandemic has resulted in fewer deaths in America in 2022 than in 2021, according to preliminary data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But deaths from heart disease and cancer have increased, and covid-19 has remained remarkably deadly, killing more than 500 people a day.

The report shows an overall drop of 5.3% in the all-cause death rate, a sign that the country emerged last year from the worst phase of the pandemic. Deaths from covid have fallen by 47% between 2021 and 2022.

But covid hasn’t magically become the flu or a new type of cold. Even though the population had developed high levels of immunity against vaccination and natural infection, covid was the fourth leading cause of death in 2022, behind heart disease (699,659 deaths), cancer (607,790) and “unintentional injuries”, which include drug overdoses (218,064). The CDC estimated that covid was the underlying cause of 186,702 deaths and a contributing factor in another 58,284.

Covid “has not gone away,” said William Schaffner, an infectious disease physician at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, in an email after reviewing the report. “It continues to smolder in our communities, wiping out the weakest among us, just as African lions strike at older, slower antelope.”

By far the biggest killers remain heart disease and cancer. It was the third consecutive year of increases in the age-adjusted death rate from heart disease and the second consecutive year for cancer deaths. The all-cause death rate in the United States in 2022 was almost as high as in 2020, and much higher than in 2019.

Part of rise in heart disease and cancer deaths may be an effect of the pandemic. For example, cancer screenings have declined as many people have chosen to postpone medical visits. Heart disease may also have been exacerbated by covid-related inflammation.

But there has been a well-documented erosion of health in the country for people of working age, a trend that predated the pandemic. Life expectancy has historically improved alongside improved infant and maternal mortality rates, as well as better public health measures, including vaccinations, which limit the ravages of infectious diseases. But U.S. life expectancy gains plateaued after 2010 and declined for several years in the middle of the decade before increasing slightly just before the appearance of the coronavirus.

The appalling mortality figures were due in part to the opioid epidemic, but other factors played a role, including a slowdown in what had been positive trends in heart disease treatment as the country struggled against high rates of obesity and hypertension. Covid has caused life expectancy to drop further, to the same level as in 1996, according to CDC data released last year.

Faced with this recent history of poor health trends, the new data from the CDC is not encouraging.

“The increase should raise concerns that our recent history of substantial progress against heart disease has stalled or even reversed,” Harlan Krumholz, a cardiologist at Yale School of Medicine, said in an email after reviewing the report. from the CDC.

“The results are even more impressive since the country has lost many seniors who were most vulnerable to heart disease during the pandemic,” Krumholz continued. “This may represent further evidence that the health of Americans continues to decline despite the enormous amount we spend on health care.”

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