AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — According to a document released by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), life expectancy in the United States declined for the second consecutive year.

From 2020 to 2021 the life expectancy went from 77 to 76.1 years, according to the CDC. The lowest life expectancy since 1996.

Health officials are linking the decline to two leading causes, COVID-19 and overdosing.

“The big reason is actually COVID, just the number of deaths that occurred due to COVID infections in the US, actually dropped that life expectancy in 2020, said Todd Bell, M.D., Associate professor TTUHSC. Then we had another bunch of deaths, as a matter of fact, more in 2021 than in 2020, which then drove it down again even further.”

Officials have also seen an increase in overdoses that could indirectly be related to COVID-19.

Bell continued, “we’ve also seen an increase in overdoses, accidental overdoses, or opiate overdoses related to drug use. Now, that may also be indirectly related to the pandemic as well, because we see that as people have struggled with social isolation in the pandemic. There’s been changes in in how people are able to interact with others, that increases the likelihood of drug use mental health issues, and those actually ended up in driving some of those other factors that can unfortunately lead to death as well.”

Although life expectancy has decreased over the past two years it can turn around and begin to increase. Staying up to date on vaccinations and making healthy life choices can all make a difference in individual life expectancy.

For people struggling with mental health issues or drug dependency Dr.Bell said it is important to have a strong social support system.

“Folks who have a mental health issue, whether that be depression or anxiety or, or other things that might predispose to drug dependency or to a non-accidental overdose, we want those folks to be able to reach out and help and that’s the most important thing is that we want to be able to provide treatment for those folks that are suffering from these diseases, said Bell.”

Genetics, environment and lifestyle all factor into individual life expectancy. According to the CDC other causes of shortened life expectancy include heart disease, chronic liver disease and suicide.

The CDC’s report shows that non-Hispanic American Indian-Alaskan Native people had the biggest drop in life expectancy (1.9 years), followed by Non-Hispanic White people (1.0) and Non-Hispanic Black people (0.7) in second and third respectively.