Life Expectancy for U.S. Residents Increases to 77.6 Years, CDC Data Indicate
Life expectancy for U.S. residents increased to a record 77.6 years and mortality rates for most leading causes of death declined in 2003, according to the preliminary annual mortality report released Monday by CDC's National Center for Health Statistics, the AP/Las Vegas Sun reports (Schmid, AP/Las Vegas Sun, 2/28).
Researchers led by Bob Anderson, chief of NCHS's mortality statistics division, examined more than 2.4 million death certificates issued in 2003, about 93% of death certificates issued that year. Final results will be available in September (Howard Price, Washington Times, 3/1).
According to the report, average life expectancy for U.S. residents in 2003 increased by nearly four months from an average of 77.3 years in 2002 (Mestel, Los Angeles Times, 3/1). The report found that from 2002 to 2003, mortality rates for:
- Heart disease declined by 3.6%;
- Cancer declined by 2.2%;
- Stroke decreased by 4.6% (Washington Times, 3/1);
- HIV-related deaths declined by 4.1% (Los Angeles Times, 3/1);
- Chronic respiratory disease declined by 0.7%;
- Flu and pneumonia declined by 3.1%;
- Accidents decreased by 2.2%;
- Suicide declined by 3.7% (AP/Las Vegas Sun, 2/28);
- Alcohol-related illnesses declined by 4.3%;
- Drug-related causes decreased by 3.3%; and
- Work-related injuries decreased by 13%.
Relative to 2002, the report also found increased mortality rates for some conditions, including:
- A 5.9% increase for Alzheimer's disease;
- A 5.7% increase for hypertension;
- A 2.1% increase for kidney disease; and
- A 3.4% increase for Parkinson's disease.
The report found that in 2003 there were about seven infant deaths per 1,000 live births, compared with 6.9 per 1,000 live births in 2002, the first time the U.S. infant mortality rate had increased in 44 years (Scripps Howard/Detroit News, 3/1).
According to the Los Angeles Times, the 2003 infant mortality rate "implies that the 2002 finding was real and not a statistical blip" (Los Angeles Times, 3/1).
However, the gap between male and female life expectancies decreased from 2002, when females lived an average of 5.4 years longer than men. The Washington Times reports that 2003 was the first time the average life expectancy of all U.S. women, regardless of race, exceeded 80 years (Washington Times, 3/1). In addition, the report found that death rates per 100,000 white men declined by 2.1% in 2003 and by 1.2% for white women, compared with a 2.5% decrease for African-American men and a 2.4% decrease among African-American women.
Among Latinos, mortality rates for men decreased by 4.2% and by 1.8% for women (AP/Las Vegas Sun, 2/28). Overall, the report found that average life expectancy for white residents was 78 years in 2003 and about 73 years for African-American residents. African-American males continue to have the shortest life expectancy at less than 70 years in 2003, according to the report.
With regard to the increased mortality rate for Alzheimer's, Anderson said, "It's hard to tell if this is an increase in actual risk or if the higher death rate reflects diagnostic shifts," adding, "Even with the aging of the U.S. population, there is an increase in apparent risk for Alzheimer's."
Anderson said that the increased mortality rate for Parkinson's disease was one of the report's most surprising findings and that he does not believe the increase should be attributed to diagnostic changes. He said, "I just think there's more of it out there. ... Deaths from Parkinson's tend to occur in older people" (Washington Times, 3/1).
Mary Salmon, a sociology professor at the University of North Carolina, said research also indicates that there is an increase in active life expectancy. "It's not that we're having a lot of very old, sick people," she said.
The AP/Sun reports that the United States still has lower life expectancy rates than many other countries, according to statistics from the World Health Organization (AP/Las Vegas Sun, 2/28).
The report is available online. Note: You must have Adobe Acrobat Reader to view the report.