Mortality from COVID-19 increased overall by 0.7% in 2021 from 2020, but there have been shifts in who is severely affected by the disease, according to provisional data released Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

COVID-19 was associated with more than 460,000 deaths in 2021, the agency’s analysis shows. The disease continued to be the third-leading cause of death in the United States after heart disease and cancer. The highest rates of COVID-19 death by sex, race and ethnicity are among males and non-Hispanic American Indian or Alaska Native and non-Hispanic Black or African American populations.

Among age groups, meanwhile, older adults aged 85 years and older are still most at risk of dying from COVID-19, but deaths in this age group have fallen off slightly. 

Death disparities shift

The provisional information also revealed a decrease in COVID-19 death disparities during this time period. Despite continuing to experience the highest overall COVID-19 death rates among racial and ethnic groups, deaths have decreased for Asian, Hispanic and Black populations, the agency reported. 

In contrast, COVID-19 mortality rates have increased for nonHispanic Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander, White and nonHispanic American Indian or Alaska Native populations. 

Final mortality data is typically released about 11 months after the end of a year period, and the provisional numbers may change, the researchers noted.

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