According to a new report from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), life expectancy in the US reached an all time high of
nearly 78 years in 2007, while the age-adjusted death rate reached a new all time low of 760.3 deaths per 100,000 population.
These are the findings, based on nearly 90 per cent of US death certificates, of a preliminary report titled Deaths: Preliminary Data for 2007" that the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics published online on 19 August.
The report shows that life expectancy rose from 77.7 in 2006 to 77.9 in 2009. This continues a trend that has risen steadily by an overall 1.4 years since 1997 when life expectancy was estimated at 76.5 years.
For the first time, life expectancy for black males reached 70 years.
Rates of death also broke the all time record: they reached an all time low of 760.3 deaths per 100,000 population in 2007, which is 2.1 per cent lower than 776.5, the rate for 2006, and half of what it was 60 years ago in 1947 when it was at 1,532 per 100,000.
The preliminary estimated number of deaths in the United States in 2007 was 2,423,995, which is down from the 2006 total by 2,269 deaths.
The rate of death from HIV/AIDS fell by 10 per cent from the 2006 figure to an estimated 11,061 in 2007, the biggest one-year decline since 1998.
Although HIV was not one of the 15 leading causes of death overall in 2007, "it is still of concern", wrote the authors, and it remains the sixth leading cause of death among 25 to 44-year olds.
The report also shows that:
- Life expectancy for men and women separately also hit record highs: 75.3 years for men and 80.4 years for women.
- The gap in life expectancy between men and women has been closing steadily from 7.8 years in 1979 to 5.1 years in 2007, although there was no difference between 2006 and 2007.
- The two leading causes of death in 2007 were heart disease and cancer: they accounted for nearly half (48.5 per cent) of all deaths in that year.
- Rates of death for 8 of the 15 leading causes of death fell significantly between 2006 and 2007.
- Influenza and pneumonia deaths fell by 8.4 per cent, deaths from homicide by 6.5 per cent, from accidents by 5 per cent, from heart disease by 4.7 per cent, from stroke by 4.6 per cent, from diabetes by 3.9 per cent, from high blood pressure (hypertension) by 2.7 per cent, and from cancer by 1.8 per cent.
- However, the death rate for the fourth leading cause of death in the US, chronic lower respiratory diseases, went up by 1.7 per cent.
- Numerically the death rates for Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease and chronic liver disease and cirrhosis also went up but the report authors said these gains were "not statistically significant" (ie within the realm of random error).
- The death rate for babies under 1 year of age (infants) has also gone up from 2006 to 2007, but the increase was not statistically significant. It went up from 6.69 infant deaths per 1,000 live births in 2006 to 6.77 in 2007.
- The most common reason for babies dying under the age of 1 year in 2007 was birth defects (congenital malformations, deformations and chromosomal abnormalities), followed by disorders linked to preterm birth and low birthweight.
- SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome, often referred to as "cot death"), was the third leading cause of infant death in 2007.
Jiaquan Xu, Kenneth D Kochanek, and Betzaida Tejada-Vera, for CDC Division of Vital Statistics.
National Vital Statistics Report (PDF), Vol 58, No 1, 19 August 2009.
Written by: Catharine Paddock, PhD