U.S. Life Expectancy Increased in 2019, Prior to the Pandemic

For Immediate Release: December 22, 2020

Contact: CDC, National Center for Health Statistics, Office of Communication (301) 458-4800
E-mail: paoquery@cdc.gov

Life expectancy in the United States increased in 2019 for the second consecutive year, according to final mortality data released Tuesday, despite an increase in deaths from drug overdoses and an all-time high of over 2.85 million deaths in the U.S. The data are featured in two new reports from CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS).

Mortality in the United States: 2019” features the first public release of final mortality data for 2019, and the report documents that there were 2,854,838 total deaths in the United States during 2019 — 15,633 more than the total reported in 2018. Final data for 2020, which will reflect the mortality toll from the pandemic, are not yet available.

The age-adjusted death rate for the entire U.S. population decreased by 1.2% from 723.6 deaths per 100,000 population in 2018 to 715.2 in 2019. As a result, life expectancy at birth for the U.S. population increased 0.1 year from 2018 to 78.8 years in 2019.

The 10 leading causes of death in 2019 remained the same, except kidney disease rose from 9th to 8th among leading causes with 51,565 deaths and influenza and pneumonia fell from 8th to 9th, with 49,783 deaths. Heart disease remained the leading cause of death in the U.S. (659,041 deaths), cancer remained second (599,601 deaths), and accidents/unintentional injuries remained third (173,040 deaths).

The number of suicides declined from 48,344 in 2018 to 47,511 in 2019, and the suicide rate (the number of suicides per 100,000 population) also declined, from 14.2 in 2018 to 13.9 in 2019.

A second report released today, “Drug Overdose Deaths in the United States, 1999-2019,” showed that overdose deaths, which account for over a third of all accidental deaths in the U.S., increased in 2019 after declining for the first time in 28 years in 2018. The official number of drug overdose deaths among residents in the United States for 2019 was 70,630, nearly 5% higher than the 67,367 deaths in 2018. Provisional monthly data released last week for the one-year period ending in May 2020 showed an 18% increase in drug overdose deaths from the same period the year before.

Other Findings:

  • The drug overdose death rate was 21.6 overdose deaths per 100,000 in 2019, higher than 20.7 in 2018.
  • The rate of drug overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids other than methadone (drugs such as fentanyl, fentanyl analogs, and tramadol) increased from 9.9 in 2018 to 11.4 in 2019, but the annual rate of increase was much slower from 2017 to 2019 (9% annually) than from 2013-2017 (75% annually).
  • From 2012 to 2019, the rate of drug overdose deaths involving cocaine more than tripled (from 1.4 to 4.9) and the rate for deaths involving psychostimulants with abuse potential (drugs such as methamphetamine) increased more than 6-fold (from 0.8 to 5.0).


Mortality in the United States, 2019
Drug Overdose Deaths in the United States, 1999–2019



Page last reviewed: December 22, 2020