Life expectancy fell in the United States in 2021 for the second year in a row to its lowest level since 1996

driven by COVID-19 deaths, according to provisional government data published on Wednesday.

The nearly one-year decline from 2020 to 76.1 years marked the largest two-year drop in life expectancy

at birth in close to a century, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found

Disparity in life expectancy between men and women also widened last year

with men now expected to live 73.2 years, nearly six fewer years than women.

Deaths from COVID-19 contributed to half of the overall decline in life expectancy last year

with drug overdoses and heart disease also major contributors, the data showed.

COVID-19 was associated with more than 460,000 U.S. deaths in 2021, according to the CDC.

In 2020, U.S. life expectancy saw its biggest one-year drop since World War Two