Number of U.S. Deaths Decreased by 50,000 in 2004
The number of annual deaths in the U.S. decreased by 2%, or almost 50,000, in 2004, according to a preliminary report released on Wednesday by the National Center for Health Statistics at CDC, the AP/Baltimore Sun reports. For the report, NCHS reviewed about 90% of death records from all 50 states.
The report finds that the number of deaths totaled 2,398,343 in 2004, compared with 2,448,288 in 2003. The report in large part attributes the decrease to reduced mortality rates for heart disease, cancer and stroke, the three leading causes of death.
According to the report, in 2004, the mortality rates for heart disease, cancer and stroke decreased by 6%, 3% and 6.5%, respectively. In addition, mortality rates for 11 of the 13 other leading causes of death decreased in 2004, the report finds.
The mortality rate for influenza also decreased by 7% in 2004, in part because of a milder flu season, the report finds. Overall, age-adjusted mortality rates decreased to a record low of 801 deaths per 100,000 residents in 2004, compared with 833 deaths per 100,000 residents in 2003, according to the report (AP/Baltimore Sun, 4/20).
The report also finds that life expectancy increased to 77.9 years in 2004, compared with 77.5 years in 2003. The life expectancy for men was 75.2 years in 2004, compared with 80.4 years for women, the report finds (Corbett Dooren, Dow Jones, 4/19).
In addition, the report finds that the overall infant mortality rate decreased to 6.76 deaths per 100,000 in 2004 from 6.85 deaths per 100,000 in 2003. The mortality rate for black infants was 13.65 deaths per 100,000 in 2004, compared with 5.65 deaths per 100,000 white infants, the report finds (Gellene, Los Angeles Times, 4/20).
NCHS expects to release a final report in May (Dow Jones, 4/19).
Arialdi Minino, lead author of the report, said, "We were surprised by the sharpness of the decrease" in deaths, adding, "It's kind of historical." According to the AP/Sun, NCHS officials "are confident that the findings are legitimate and not the result of something such as changes in data collection" because the "decreases in the death rate were found nationwide."
Ken Thorpe, an Emory University professor of health care policy, said that improvements in medical care, such as new treatments to prevent heart disease, contributed to the decrease in deaths.
Paul Terry, an assistant professor of epidemiology at Emory, said, "These are preliminary data. But if it holds up, it's obviously very good news."
Elizabeth Ward, director of surveillance research for the American Cancer Society, said, "We will not make much of this until the final data come out" (AP/Baltimore Sun, 4/20).
The report is available online.
ABCNews' "World News Tonight" on Wednesday reported on increased life expectancy for U.S. residents. The segment includes comments from Robert Anderson, chief of the mortality statistics branch of the NCHS; Robert Butler, president of the International Longevity Center; and a 72-year-old resident who is a personal trainer (Muir, "World News Tonight," ABCNews, 4/19).
Expanded ABCNews coverage of the topic is available online.
In addition, CBS' "Evening News" reported on the issue. The segment includes comments from David Lipschitz, a physician at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (Mitchell, "Evening News," CBS, 4/19).
The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.