Americans’ Overall Health Has Improved Since 1950, Still Room for Progress, CDC Says
U.S. residents are living longer and smoking less now than they did 50 years ago but are becoming overweight and spending more on health care than any other industrialized nation, according to a new CDC report on the health of people living in the United States in 2000, the Los Angeles Times reports (Mestel, Los Angeles Times, 9/13). The report, "Health, United States, 2002," represents the latest findings from numerous health surveys and was compiled by the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics (HHS release, 9/12). The report found the following improvements in Americans' health:
- Those born in 2000 are expected to live nearly 77 years, compared with 75.4 years for those born in 1990, 68.2 years for those born in 1950 and 47.3 years for people born in 1900 (Uhlman, Knight Ridder/Albany Times Union, 9/13).
- The infant mortality rate has dropped 75% since 1950. In 2000, it fell to a record low 6.9 deaths per 1,000 live births, down from 7.1 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1999.
- Death rates since 1950 for people up to age 24 have dropped by half, and death rates for adults ages 25 to 64 had a similar drop. Mortality among those ages 65 and older fell 33% between 1950 and 2000.
- Adults who reach age 65 generally live to age 81 for men and age 84 for women.
- The rate of adults who are smokers has dropped from 40% in 1965 to 23% in 2000.
- Rates of infectious diseases have fallen overall in the last 50 years. In 2000, the rate of syphilis reached the lowest point -- 2.2 cases per 100,000 people -- since national reporting began in 1941.
HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson said, "When you take the long view, you see clearly how far we've come in combating diseases, making workplaces safer and avoiding risks such as smoking. As we take better care of ourselves and medical treatments continue to improve, the illnesses and behaviors that once cost us the lives of our grandparents will become even less threatening to the lives of our grandchildren" (HHS release, 9/12).
However, the report is "not all good news," the AP/Baltimore Sun reports. The report found the following:
- Death rates from diabetes are rising, in large part because of a "sharp increase in obesity" (AP/Baltimore Sun, 9/13).
- Approximately 60% of American adults in 2000 were considered "overweight," and 13% of children ages six to 11 were overweight. Further, an estimated 40% of adults reported they did not exercise during their "leisure time" in 2000.
- While, the number of deaths from AIDS has dropped since 1995 because of new antiretroviral medications, new cases of the disease are still being reported, with 40,000 new cases reported in 2000.
- African-American babies born in 2000 have a life expectancy 5.6 years fewer than white babies.
- The United States is ranked 23rd among the world's 30 industrialized nations in infant mortality and 12th in male life expectancy.
- Health care costs in the United States continue to rise. Americans spent $1.3 trillion on health care in 2000, 13% of the gross domestic product and a 6.9% increase over 1999. Further, the cost of drugs increased 15% each year between 1995 and 2000.
According to Edward Sondik, director of the National Center for Health Statistics, the report "shows what we're doing right, and where we still need to make improvements" (Los Angeles Times, 9/13). The complete report is available online at www.cdc.gov/nchs/hus.htm. This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.