COVID-19 was 3rd leading cause of death in US in 2021, CDC reports

Two new reports released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that COVID-19 was the third leading cause of death in the United States in 2021. 

The first report provided an overview of U.S. mortality data for 2021, which included a comparison of death rates for all causes of death and for deaths involving COVID-19. 

The study found that the overall age-adjusted death rate increased by almost 1% in 2021 from 2020. COVID-19 was the third leading underlying cause of death in 2021 for the second year since the disease emerged, after heart disease and cancer.


200,000 American Flags Installed On National Mall To Memorialize 200,000 COVID-19 Deaths (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

According to the study, the year 2021 saw the highest death rate since 2003, with increases in many leading causes of death, including COVID-19 and unintentional injuries. 

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In addition, the report found that differences in death rates still remain between certain racial and ethnic minority groups. Overall death rates were highest among non-Hispanic American Indian/Alaskan Native and non-Hispanic Black or African American people. 

The second report also examined the differences in COVID-19 death rates and found they decreased among most racial and ethnic groups. 

The report found between 2020 and 2021, disparities in age-adjusted death rate (AADR) ratios from COVID-19 decreased significantly by 14.0% to 40.2% for most racial and ethnic groups, including non-Hispanic White persons, who accounted for 59.6%–65.2% of all deaths; and increased 7.2% for non-Hispanic Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander persons compared with non-Hispanic multiracial persons.

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"The results of both studies highlight the need for greater effort to implement effective interventions. We must work to ensure equal treatment in all communities in proportion to their need for effective interventions that can prevent excess COVID-19 deaths," the CDC wrote in a press release. 

COVID-19 was associated with approximately 460,000 deaths in the U.S. from January to December 2021.

As of Friday, more than 990,000 people have died from COVID-19 in the U.S. throughout the entire pandemic, signaling the nation will soon mark 1 million COVID-19 deaths.