US deaths fell last year, and Covid-19 dropped to the nation’s No 4 cause, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported.
Covid-19 deaths trailed those caused by heart disease, cancer and injuries such as drug overdoses, motor vehicle fatalities and shootings. In 2020 and 2021, only heart disease and cancer were ahead of the coronavirus.
US deaths usually rise year-to-year, in part because the nation’s population has been growing. The pandemic accelerated that trend, making 2021 the deadliest in US history, with more than 3.4 million deaths. But 2022 saw the first drop in deaths since 2009.
The 2022 tally was about 3.3m – a 5% decline from 2021 but still much higher than in the years before the pandemic. The CDC cautioned that last year’s numbers are preliminary and may change a little after further analysis.
Coronavirus-associated death rates fell for nearly all Americans. The virus was deemed the underlying cause of about 187,000 US deaths last year, accounting for about 6% of deaths. The highest Covid-19 death rates were in the South and in an adjacent region that stretches west to Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico, the CDC said.
The death rates for heart disease and cancer increased during the pandemic, the CDC said. The cancer death rate had been falling for 20 years before coronavirus hit.
The CDC report indicated a slight decline in injury deaths last year, falling to about 218,000 from about 219,500 the year before. That would be a surprise, given recent trends in rising drug overdose and gun deaths, but figures are preliminary.
Meanwhile, earlier this week, the CDC reported that the rate of drug overdose deaths involving the synthetic opioid fentanyl more than tripled in the US from 2016 through 2021.
Fentanyl is up to 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine, and has increasingly been mixed with other illicit drugs.
The CDC said the rate of drug overdose deaths involving fentanyl increased from 5.7 per 100,000 people in 2016 to 21.6 per 100,000 in 2021.
A week ago, the agency also reported that US cigarette smoking dropped to another all-time low last year, with one in nine adults saying they were current smokers. Electronic cigarette use rose, to about one in 17 adults.
Just over 11% of Americans regularly lit up cigarettes last year, the lowest level since 1965, the CDC said.