Age adjusted death rates in the United States dropped sharply between 2005 and 2006, and life expectancy hit another record high of 78.1 years, according to the latest figures from the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The NCHS preliminary death rates and life expectancy figures for 2006 are published in the report “Deaths: Preliminary Data for 2006”, as issue 16 in volume 56 of the National Vital Statistics Report (NVSR), released on 11th June 2008.

The preliminary results show that the number of deaths in the United States for 2006 was 2,425,900, a decrease of 22,117 from 2005, which the authors say is most likely due to the more mild influenza activity in 2006 compared to 2005.

The report also reveals the key result that while life expectancy for a child born in the US in 2006 has reached a new record high of 78.1 years (up 0.3 from 2005), Alzheimer’s has now overtaken diabetes to become the 6th leading cause of death in the US in 2006, reflecting the growing number of people dying from diseases of old age as more of the population lives longer.

The lowest death rates were reported to be in Guam, Hawaii, and Virgin Islands, followed by California, New York, Utah, Florida, Connecticut and Colorado. The highest were in Mississippi, Northern Mariana Islands and American Samoa.

Other key results of the report are:

  • Record high life expectancy was recorded for white and black males (76 and 70 years respectively).
  • Record high life expectancy was also recorded for white and black females (81 and 76.9 years).
  • The 2006 age-adjusted death rate fell to 776.4 deaths per 100,000 people in the US.
  • This is a 3 per cent fall from 799 deaths per 100,000 in 2005.
  • Infant death rate for 2006 was 6.7 infant deaths per 1,000 live births, a drop of 2.3 per cent from the 2005 rate of 6.9.
  • Death rates for 8 of the 10 leading causes of death in the US all fell sharply in 2006.
  • The sharpest drop was in deaths from influenza and pneumonia, with a 12.8 per cent drop.
  • Other falls in death rates were recorded for: chronic lower respiratory diseases (6.5 per cent), stroke (6.4 per cent), heart disease (5.5 per cent), diabetes (5.3 per cent), high blood pressure (5 per cent), chronic liver disease and cirrhosis (3.3 per cent), suicide (2.8 per cent), septicemia or blood poisoning (2.7 per cent), cancer (1.6 per cent) and accidents (1.5 per cent).

The data for the report comes from over 95 per cent of the death certificates from all 50 states and the District of Columbia as part of the National Vital Statistics System. The researchers also used the number of deaths registered and processed for 2006 as reported through each state vital statistics office to cross check the counts.

The population numbers used to work out the death rates came from the US Census Bureau, and are based on the 2000 census. Death rates by race however are estimations produced using various procedures (such as “bridging”) because that data is not collected across all states in a way that is uniformly consistent with that required by various standards.

While these figures are only preliminary, the report’s authors noted in their introduction that statistics in preliminary reports “are generally considered reliable”, as has been confirmed by final figures for the ten previous years of reporting.

“Deaths: Preliminary Data for 2006.”
Melonie P. Heron, Donna L. Hoyert, Jiaquan Xu, Chester Scott, and Betzaida Tejada-Vera, Division of Vital Statistics.
National Vital Statistics Report (NVSR), Volume 56, Number 16, June 11, 2008.

Click here for the Report (52 pages, 712 KB PDF).

Source: CDC NCHS press statement.

Written by: Catharine Paddock, PhD