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Chicagoans’ Life Expectancy Fell By 2 Years After The Pandemic Started — But COVID Wasn’t The Only Factor

Black and Latino Chicagoans have been the most affected by worsening life expectancy. Black Chicagoans now live 10 years less than white residents, on average.

Pedestrians, some wearing face masks, walk along State Street in the Loop as the weather warms up on April 11, 2022.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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CHICAGO — Life expectancy among Chicagoans dropped almost two years during the start of the pandemic — one of the worst drops in recorded history, with Black and Latino residents being affected the most, city officials announced Monday.

The drop came 2019-2020, according to the city. The number of people dying from COVID-19 played a significant role in bringing down the life expectancy, with COVID-19 becoming the second-leading cause of death among Chicagoans in 2020.

But Chicago also saw more residents dying than expected from homicides and things like overdoses and car crashes.

The drop in life expectancy was seen in nearly all community areas and among residents of all races, though Latino and Black Chicagoans saw a greater decline than other people, according to the Chicago Department of Public Health.

“COVID has taken a terrible toll on the health and wellbeing of our city’s residents particularly those who are Black and Latinx,” Mayor Lightfoot said in a statement. “Without formally acknowledging this detrimental impact, and its roots in structural racism, we will never be able to move forward as a city.”

Chronic disease, including cancer, diabetes and heart disease; homicide; infant mortality; HIV; flu and other infections; and opioid overdose are driving the life expectancy gap among Chicagoans of different races, according to the city.

Those issues are “rooted in the daily challenges many Chicagoans face” — and challenges which were exacerbated by the pandemic, like a lack of access to healthy food and stable housing.

“The life expectancy gap isn’t just about the causes that show up on the death certificate most often, but what drives those causes,” health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said in a statement. “There is no miracle cure, no shortcut to closing the life expectancy gap. Collectively, the City and its partners must do the work to fundamentally transform the conditions in which people live — by ending the pandemic and by addressing its impacts on access to services, housing, education and economic opportunities, as well as people’s mental health.” 

RELATED: Black Chicagoans Die 9 Years Before White Residents. The City Has A New Plan To Confront Racism And Close The Gap

Arwady and Lightfoot have previously said many health issues and disparities are rooted in racism. They’ve released the Healthy Chicago 2025 plan to address health inequities and close the life expectancy gap.

Recently, the health department announced it will host a livestream show on Thursdays focused on providing health care information to Black Chicagoans and answering their questions about health and wellness.

The health department highlighted key findings about life expectancy:

  • Life expectancy for Black Chicagoans fell below 70 for the first time in decades.
  • The gap in life expectancy between Black and white Chicagoans was 10 years in 2020, an increase from 8.8 ears in 2017.
  • Life expectancy for Latino Chicagoans dropped by more than three years between 2019 and 2020, the most significant decline among any racial or ethnic group. Latino Chicagoans’ life expectancy has fallen by seven years since 2012.
  • Life expectancy for white Chicagoans fell by one year between 2019 and 2020.
  • Asian and Pacific Islander life expectancy fell by two years between 2019 and 2020.
  • Chicagoans 18-44 have seen a 45 percent increase in death rates from 2019, in comparison to the 30 percent increase in the death rate for Chicagoans 65 and older.


• In Illinois, about 8.2 million people — or 64.64 percent of the state’s 12.7 million people — are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to state data.

• Across the state, 17,515 vaccine doses are being administered per day, based on a seven-day rolling average.

• Illinois and Chicago have administered at least 21,801,776 vaccine doses of the 26,573,345 provided to them.

• City data shows more than 1.8 million Chicagoans — or 68.9 percent of all residents — are fully vaccinated, and 77.4 percent of all Chicagoans have gotten at least one shot.

Everyone 5 and older is eligible to get vaccinated in Chicago.

COVID-19 vaccinations are free and do not require insurance. Anyone can call the city’s coronavirus hotline at 312-746-4835 to get more information on how and where to get vaccinated in their community.

The numbers:

• Since Friday, 13 Illinoisans were reported dead from COVID-19.

• At least 33,581 people have died from COVID-19 in Illinois, and another 4,286 deaths are probably related to the virus, according to the state.

• The state reported 8,155 cases since Friday. That brings the total number of confirmed cases in Illinois up to 3,122,191.

• The state is reporting an average of 172 confirmed cases per day per 100,000 people. That average was at 153 on Friday.

• As of Sunday night, 77 people with COVID-19 were in the ICU and 23 people with COVID-19 were using ventilators in Illinois.

• In Chicago, seven deaths were reported since Friday. There have been at least 7,367 deaths from COVID-19 in Chicago. The city is seeing an average of less than one death per day, down 83 percent from last week.

• Chicago has had 1,820 confirmed cases reported since Friday. It’s had a total of 578,684 confirmed cases. An average of 521 confirmed cases are being reported per day, up 15 percent from a week ago.

• Testing in Chicago is down 35 percent from a week ago.

• Chicago’s positivity rate was at 5.1 percent, up from 2.8 percent a week ago.

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