A new study published in the British Medical Journal finds that life expectancy in the US has been significantly reduced between the years 2018-2020. Life expectancy fell two years during this period, with researchers attributing the decline to the coronavirus pandemic.

In 2018, life expectancy in the US was 78.7 years. By the end of 2020, it had fallen to 76.9 years.

"We have not seen a decrease like this since World War II. It's a horrific decrease in life expectancy," said Steven Woolf of the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine, one of the authors of the report.

Woolf noted that the pandemic effects went beyond the 600,000 who were directly killed by the virus, but included "disruptions in health care, disruptions in chronic disease management, and behavioral health crisis, where people struggling with addiction disorders or depression might not have gotten the help that they needed."

"When the pandemic came, my naïve assumption was that it would not have a big impact on the preexisting gap between the US and peer countries," Woolf said. "It was a global pandemic, and I assumed that every country would take a hit. What I did not anticipate was how badly the U.S. would fare in the pandemic and the enormous death toll that the US would experience."

The study found the impact on life expectancy in the US was greatest among minorities such as the African American and Hispanic communities.