DURANT, Okla. (KTEN) — The Centers for Disease Control reports that life expectancy in the United States dropped in 2021 by nearly one full year as the COVID-19 pandemic continued its grip on the nation and the world.

The CDC says Americans can now expect to live for an average of 76 years.

But that same report showed the lifespan of American Indian and Alaskan people experienced the sharpest decrease in 2021 at nearly two years. Those groups now live for average of 62.5 years.

Choctaw Medical Center Dr. Eric Lee said there are multiple contributing factors to a shortened life span among Native Americans.

"The Native American population has increased instances of obesity and diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease," he said. "That actually decreases life expectancy for the Native American population."

Choctaw Nation Chief Gary Batton believes part of the shortened lifespan is due to a lack of resources.

"Access to care is critical for our tribal members — not only primary care, but people think about tertiary care, heart specialists, and all those things we are trying to do our best to bring those services right here to southeastern Oklahoma," he said.

Batton added that a portion of the upcoming Choctaw Nation budget is devoted to an expansion of health resources.

"We're always focused on our Medicare and Medicaid private insurance on our health side to make sure that we maximize the best that we can,"  Batton said.