US Life Expectancy Keeps Rising, Racial Gap at Record Low

Megan Brooks

January 06, 2014

Life expectancy at birth has increased for most Americans, regardless of gender, race, or ethnicity, according to a National Vital Statistics Report released Monday.

In 2009, life expectancy at birth was 78.5 years, an increase of 0.4 years, from 78.1 years in 2008, says the report, authored by Elizabeth Arias, PhD, of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics, Division of Vital Statistics.

The increase in life expectancy in 2009 over 2008 stems from decreases in death from heart disease, cancer, unintentional injuries, stroke, and chronic lower respiratory diseases, the report notes.

Among men, decreases in mortality from heart disease, unintentional injuries, cancer, chronic lower respiratory diseases, and homicide contributed to increases in life expectancy. Among women, increases in life expectancy were a result of decreases in mortality from heart disease, stroke, cancer, Alzheimer's disease, and chronic lower respiratory diseases.

The difference in life expectancy between the sexes was 4.9 years in 2009, declining slightly from 5.0 years in 2008.

"On the basis of mortality experienced in 2009, a person aged 65 could expect to live an average of 19.1 more years for a total of 84.1 years; a person aged 85 could expect to live an additional 6.6 years for a total of 91.6 years; and a person aged 100 could expect to live an additional 2.3 years, on average," according to the report.

By race, between 2008 and 2009, life expectancy increased 0.5 years to 74.5 years for the black population, and 0.3 years to 78.8 years for the white population. "The difference in life expectancy between the white and black populations was 4.3 years in 2009, a historically record-low level," the report notes.

Among the 4 race-sex groups, white females continued to have the highest life expectancy at birth (81.2 years), followed by black females (77.6 years), white males (76.4 years), and black males (71.1 years). Between 2008 and 2009, life expectancy increased 0.5 years for black males (from 70.6 to 71.1) and 0.4 years for black females (from 77.2 to 77.6).

Between 2008 and 2009, life expectancy increased 0.5 years (from 73.7 to 74.2) for the non-Hispanic black population, 0.3 years (from 78.4 to 78.7) for the non-Hispanic white population, and 0.2 years (from 81.0 to 81.2) for the Hispanic population.

In 2009, the Hispanic population had a life expectancy advantage at birth of 2.5 years over the non-Hispanic white population and 7.0 years over the non-Hispanic black population.

The report also notes that, in 2009, 99.4% of all infants born in the United States survived the first year of life, compared with only 87.6% of infants born in 1900 who survived the first year.

National Vital Statistics Report. Full report

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