Americans’ life expectancy dropped by 1.8 years in 2020, yet Maine fared better than all but two states, according to Centers for Disease Control data released Tuesday.

Maine still falls behind every New England state, ranking 14th in the nation in life expectancy.

Mainers’ life expectancy declined from 78.3 to 77.8 years between 2019 and 2020, a drop fueled largely by the emergence of COVID-19, according to the CDC’s 2020 U.S. State Life Tables report. Only New Hampshire and Hawaii, which had life expectancy declines of 0.4 years and 0.2 years, respectively, felt lesser impacts during the first year of the pandemic.

Life expectancy in New York state, which struggled to control an early COVID surge before the country developed adequate medical personal protective equipment pipelines, declined by 3 years, the nation’s steepest drop.

Robert Long, spokesman for the Maine CDC, attributed the state’s relatively small decline in life expectancy to a strong pandemic response from public health officials.

“Maine’s high ranking among states reflects the importance of public health preparedness work throughout the pandemic,” he wrote in a statement. “Among the key components of that work was ensuring adequate supplies and speedy distribution of millions of pieces of personal protective equipment early in the pandemic, then easy and equitable access to vaccines as soon as they became available. Collaboration between state and local entities also helped limit risk, while clear, direct communication from state and local leaders reinforced Maine people’s commitment to sound public health practices.”


The United States’ average life expectancy at birth of 77 years was its lowest since 2002, according to a separate CDC report released earlier this month. The agency attributed just over 60% of the drop to COVID-19, while a rise in unintentional accidents, which has been linked to the pandemic, contributed another 12%.

Maine’s relatively small life expectancy decline mirrors its low 2020 COVID-19 death count. The disease accounted for 420 Maine deaths in 2020, making it the state’s eighth-highest cause of mortality, according to a July 2022 report from the Maine Department of Health and Human Services.

Nationwide, COVID-19 was the third leading cause of death in 2020, killing about 350,000 Americans, according to the CDC.

Tuesday’s data does not capture the spike of Maine hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19 during 2021, when the disease became the state’s third leading cause of death, according to the 2022 Maine Shared Community Health Needs Assessment.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, COVID-19 has killed 39 out of approximately 35,500 Sagadahoc County residents, according to the Maine CDC, the second-lowest death rate in the state behind Knox County. Cumberland County’s COVID death rate of 13.6 per 100,000 people ranks fourth in the state and sits far below the national rate of 315 deaths per 100,000, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

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