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Life expectancy has declined over the past decade, according to new report

A younger person holds the hands of an older person in a wheelchair
Akhararat _Wathanasing/toa555

Average life expectancy in the Finger Lakes has declined by three years, according to a report released recently by Common Ground Health.

The report, Spotlight: The Life Expectancy in the Finger Lakes Region 2013-2021, also indicates that the life expectancy for Black and Latino residents fell by about seven years within that timeframe, nearly three times the decline seen among whites.

Common Ground’s CEO Wade Norwood says the COVID-19 pandemic contributed to the decline, but there were other factors, too.

“It wasn't just the (COVID-19) pandemic,” said Wade Norwood, Common Ground Health, CEO. “It's the long-standing issues of differences in housing, and education, and all of those social determinants of health and life course trajectory.”

Researchers also highlighted drug overdoses, homicides and heart disease as other contributing factors to the life expectancy decreases.

Norwood said despite medical advancements, the humanitarian aspect to survival is missing.

“It's not just about medicine, it's about care,” Norwood said. “It pains me to recognize how many people were not cared for.”

Norwood said this includes the elderly and school-aged children.

“The elderly and the very young are the populations that are the least supported in terms of health and wellness,” he said.

Ann Marie Cook, president and CEO of Lifespan, also noted other non-medical factors related to the pandemic that played a part in the decline of life expectancy, including the lack of community.

“I think COVID really highlighted the loneliness and isolation people feel, but that impacts their health too," Cook said.

Common Ground’s report also highlights a significant difference in life expectancy between people who live in ZIP codes that have low socioeconomic status than those living in wealthier neighborhoods. Cook said as long as health inequities are prevalent, “we could do all we want on the health care side, we're still going to have people that aren't going to thrive.”

Despite the spotlight’s findings, Norwood believes that our health care systems can reverse this trajectory.

“We’ve done it before. We will do it again,” he said.

Racquel Stephen is a health and environment reporter. She holds a bachelor's degree in English literature from the University of Rochester and a master's degree in broadcasting and digital journalism from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University.