BISMARCK, N.D. (KXNET)— Though the details vary, most of us want the same things: a good job, good friends and a long and healthy life. But recently, life expectancy has taken a hit.

“A lot of death.” It’s what family nurse practitioner Abby Renner said remains vivid about the COVID-19 pandemic. “It was hard to watch. It was hard for a lot of families because they would come into the E.R. alone, and they would leave alone and that would be the last time they would see a family member,” Renner recalled.

According to the CDC, nearly 75% of those COVID-related deaths were responsible for a 1.8-year drop in life expectancy in 2020. The biggest drop before that was 2.9 years between 1942 and 1943 during World War II.

“It’s horrible,” 82-year-old Marge Stolz said. Stolz lives in a Bismarck healthcare center. She said she never had COVID-19, but what was difficult for her was getting used to the necessary COVID restrictions and constant testing. “Every time I had a cough, which I have, a chronic cough, they were testing me about every other day. “I was pretty popular during that time, but it was always negative,” Stolz said.

Neither Stolz nor Renner is surprised by the life-expectancy drop, but Renner said that doesn’t mean the trend can’t be stopped. She recommended getting to a healthcare provider as soon as possible. “Go to your yearly physicals, get your blood pressure checked. Don’t be scared of the what-ifs or what they might find,” Renner explained.

Though Stolz’s mobility is limited, she realizes another factor to living as long as she’s able is to keep moving. “Make the most of everything,” Stolz said. “Don’t give up.” For a bit of positive news, in 2021, the life expectancy drop was 0.9 years. Combined with 2020’s 1.8-year drop, however, the CDC said it makes up the biggest two-year life expectancy decline since between 1921 and 1923. That was a century ago, a few years after the Spanish Flu Pandemic.
Right now, men are expected to live an average of 73.2 years while women are expected to live 79.1 years.