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Average Life Expectancy in U.S. Reaches 77.9 Years

The average life expectancy at birth in the U.S. hit a record high of 77.9 years, according to a preliminary report issued online this week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Statistics.

Life Expectancy

White females have the highest life expectancy (80.4 years) followed by black females (77.0 years), white males (75.3 years) and black males (70.2 years). This pattern has not changed from 1976 although life expectancy for all groups has increased since then.

A baby girl born today can expect to live to 80.4 years of age. A baby boy isn’t expected to live quite as long at 75.3 years, a difference of 5.1 years. But, the difference in life expectancy between male and females has been generally decreasing since its peak of 7.8 years in 1979.

Differences in life expectancy are evident when examining various ethnic groups, but this gap is closing. For the first time, life expectancy for black males reached 70 years. For black females, life expectancy reached 77.0 years.

Adjusted Death Rate

The number of deaths in 2007 was 2,424.0 million, down by 2,269 from 2006.

The age adjusted death rate, which accounts for changes in the age distribution of the population, reached a record low of 760.3 per 100,000, which is 2.1% lower than in 2006.

Among major race groups, the lowest mortality was reported by Asian or Pacific Islanders (409.7), Hispanic (530.7) and American Indian/Alaskan Native (625.3) populations. The highest age-adjusted death rate was for non-Hispanic blacks at 961.9 deaths per 100,000.

In certain ethnic groups, the death rate decreased more dramatically. Amongst Hispanic women and men, the rate decreased by 6.6% and 5.5%, respectively. The death rate decreased by 4.1% in Black males and 4.0% in Black females. These rates compare to less than a 2% drop for white males and white females.

When looking by age, significant decreases were registered across all age groups. However, those 35-44 years witnessed the biggest decline at 3.1%, followed by 65-74 year olds at 2.7%.

The top two leading causes of death in 2007 were cardiovascular disease and cancers, accounting for almost 50 percent of deaths. The death rate declined significantly for eight of the top fifteen causes of death.

Chronic lower respiratory diseases, the fourth leading cause of death, increased by 1.7% in 2007. While rates for Parkinson’s disease, Chronic liver disease and cirrhosis; and Alzheimer’s disease increased during this time, they were not considered statistically significant.

Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) was not listed on the top 15 leading causes of death. While it decreased in rank from 8th to 13th place overall in the 15 – 24 age group, HIV was still the sixth leading cause of death for 25 – 44 year olds.

The infant mortality rate was 6.77 per 1,000 live births, relatively unchanged since 2006. Infant mortality rates were quite different by ethnic group. For white infants, it was 5.72 per 1,000 live births; but for blacks it was almost double at 12.92. The leading causes of death for infants were congenital abnormalities and disorders related to low birth weight / premature infants. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome or SIDS was the third leading cause infant deaths.

The Bottom Line

Despite the continued increases, U.S. life expectancy lags in comparison to other industrialized nations. Japan holds the lead with an average life expectancy of 83 years.

The risk of dying from the two leading causes of death – cardiovascular disease and cancer – can largely be modified through improvements in diet and lifestyle. But adopting a health-promoting lifestyle will not only extend lifespan, but increase healthspan, something that many feel is even more important.

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