The COVID-19 is not solely to blame. Longstanding health problems — rooted in poverty, discrimination and poor access to health care — left Native Americans and Alaska Natives particularly vulnerable to the virus, said Ann Bullock, former director of diabetes treatment and prevention at the federal agency of Indian Health Service.
The non-Hispanic American Indian or Alaska Native population experienced the greatest decline of life expectancy by 1.9 years between 2020 and 2021, according to NCHS report.
The cumulative decline since the pandemic started, more than 6.5 years on average, has brought life expectancy to 65 among Native Americans and Alaska Natives — on par with the figure for all Americans in 1944.
One in seven Native Americans and Alaska Natives has diabetes, the highest rate among racial or ethnic groups in the United States, and many struggle with obesity or excess weight. Both conditions make people more susceptible to severe COVID-19, and crowded multigenerational housing adds to the risk, said The New York Times.