Life Expectancy Increases to 77.6 Years in U.S., Study Finds
Life expectancy in the U.S. increased to 77.6 years in 2003 from 77.3 in 2002, according to a report released on Thursday by the National Center for Health Statistics at CDC, the AP/Arizona Daily Star reports. However, about half of U.S. residents ages 55 to 64 have high blood pressure, and two in five are obese, the report finds.
For the report, NCHS researchers examined data collected by the agency and other health agencies and organizations. The report finds that deaths from heart disease, cancer and stroke all decreased by between 2% and 5% in 2003. According to Amy Bernstein, lead author of the report, U.S. life expectancy has increased since 1900 because of advances in prescription drugs and sanitation, as well as decreased rates of unhealthy behaviors such as smoking, despite increased rates of high blood pressure and obesity.
Researchers also compared data for U.S. residents ages 55 to 64 in the early 1990s with data from baby boomers, who are currently in that age group. According to the report, 42% of U.S. residents ages 55 to 64 in the 1990s had high blood pressure, compared with 50% of baby boomers, and 31% of those in the 1990s group were obese, compared with 39% of baby boomers.
In addition, the report finds:
- The U.S. infant mortality rate decreased to 6.9 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2003;
- Health care spending increased by 7.7% to $1.7 trillion in 2003, and spending as a percentage of gross domestic product increased to 15.3% in 2003, compared with 14.9% in 2002;
- Prescription drug spending increased at a higher rate -- 11% -- than spending for all other areas of health care in 2003 (Stobbe, AP/Arizona Daily Star, 12/9);
- 16.5% of U.S. residents lacked health insurance in 2003 (McKenna, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 12/9);
- 11% of U.S. residents ages 55 to 64 lacked health insurance in 2003;
- Black and Latino U.S. residents were less likely to have health insurance than other residents in 2003 (CQ HealthBeat, 12/9); and
- The U.S. government spent an average of $5,671 for health care per resident in 2003.
Bernstein said that baby boomers are "a very large and fast-growing group whose situation now gives us a preview of what is to come. They are starting to develop major chronic disease health problems at the same time that employer-sponsored health care is retracting and the cost of care is increasing" (Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 12/9). She added, "What happens to this group is very important, because it's going to affect every other group."
According to CDC Director Julie Gerberding, "The late 50s and early 60s are a crucial time to focus on disease prevention. It's never too late to adopt a healthy lifestyle to enjoy a longer, healthier life" (AP/Arizona Daily Star, 12/9).
Laurence Sperling, director of the Center for Heart Disease Prevention at the Emory University School of Medicine, said that, based on the results of the report, "we would predict an increase in kidney disease, eye disease, heart attack, stroke."
Kenneth Thorpe, chair of the department of health policy and management at Emory University, said, "We are going to have to come up with a national strategy that deals with the growth of obesity," adding, "That has to be the centerpiece of any attempt to control spending" (Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 12/9).
The report is available online. Note: You must have Adobe Acrobat Reader to view the report.