Life expectancy for Canadians decreased for the third straight year in 2022, and more people died of COVID−19 than in any other year since the pandemic began, according to a report released Monday.

Statistics Canada’s analysis of deaths last year shows the average Canadian’s life expectancy dropped to 81.3 years in 2022, a full year lower than the 82.3 years recorded in 2019.

"Life expectancy declines when there are more deaths, when deaths occur at younger ages, or a combination of both," the report said.

COVID−19 became the third−leading cause of death for Canadians last year, overtaking accidents and unintentional injuries for the first time since the disease emerged in 2020.

“This increase may in part be due to the exposure to new highly transmissible COVID−19 variants and the gradual return to normalcy,” the report said, pointing to reduced restrictions and the elimination of masking requirements.

Cancer and heart disease were the first and second most common causes of mortality, accounting for 41.8 per cent of all deaths in 2022.

New Brunswick saw the biggest decline in life expectancy among provinces, dropping more than a year to 79.8 years from 80.9 in 2021, the report said. Saskatchewan’s life expectancy has fallen the most over the past three years combined, dropping a full two years to 78.5 in 2022 from 80.5 in 2019. Prince Edward Island was not included in the yearly data breakdowns by province.

An increase in deaths among younger people last year was attributable in part to deaths under investigation by a coroner or medical examiner, which typically include suicides, homicides and drug toxicity deaths.

More than 19,700 Canadians died of COVID−19 last year, Statistics Canada said. Seniors bore the brunt of the increase, with those aged 80 and older seeing a 78−per−cent jump in COVID deaths last year compared to the year before.

People aged 65 and older accounted for 91.4 per cent of all COVID−19 deaths in 2022, the report said.

In Atlantic Canada, the rate of COVID−19 deaths in Atlantic Canada was more than seven times higher last year compared with the year before — the highest jump in any region of the country, the statistics agency said.