Life Expectancy Reaches Record High in United States

Troy Brown, RN

October 08, 2014

Life expectancy at birth in the United States was at an all-time high of 78.8 years in 2012, with much of the improvement attributed to reductions in death rates from major causes of death, such as heart disease, cancer, stroke, and chronic lower respiratory tract diseases, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Jiaquan Xu, MD, from the National Center for Health Statistics, CDC, Atlanta, Georgia, and colleagues compared 2012 final data with 2011 final data to analyze life expectancy estimates, age-adjusted death rates by race and ethnicity and sex, top 10 causes of death, and 10 leading causes of infant mortality.

"Information on mortality patterns is key to understanding changes in the health and well-being of the U.S. population," the authors write.

Top Findings

  • Life expectancy at birth for individuals living in the United States reached an all-time high of 78.8 years in 2012.

  • Life expectancy was higher for women (81.2 years) than for men (76.4 years).

  • From 2011 to 2013, the age-adjusted death rate for the United States fell 1.1%, to an historic low of 732.8 per 100,000 standard population.

  • The top 10 causes of death in 2012 stayed the same as in 2011: heart disease, cancer, chronic lower respiratory tract diseases, stroke, unintentional injuries, Alzheimer's disease, diabetes, influenza and pneumonia, kidney disease, and suicide.

  • Age-adjusted mortality rates fell significantly from 2011 to 2012 for 8 of the top 10 causes of death. The rate decreased 1.8% for heart disease, 1.5% for cancer, 2.4% for chronic lower respiratory tract diseases, 2.6% for stroke, 3.6% for Alzheimer's disease, 1.9% for diabetes, 8.3% for influenza and pneumonia, and 2.2% for kidney disease. The rate for suicide, however, increased 2.4%. Mortality rates remained the same for unintentional injury.

  • The infant mortality rate fell 1.5% from 2011 to 2012 to a record low of 597.8 infant deaths per 100,000 live births. The top 10 causes of infant mortality in 2012 stayed the same as in 2011.

The researchers analyzed data obtained from death certificates filed in 50 states and the District of Columbia that are assembled into the National Vital Statistics System for 2011 and 2012. They used postcensal population estimates as of July 1, 2011, and July 1, 2012, that are consistent with the April 1, 2010, census to calculate mortality rates.

The 2012 mortality rates continued to fall among most groups identified by sex, race, and Hispanic origin; the changes are fairly small from year to year, but long-term trends demonstrate visible progress in lowering mortality. The age-adjusted mortality rate in the United States fell 15.7% — from 869.0 to 732.8 deaths per 100,000 standard population — over 12 years, from 2000 to 2012.

The authors have disclosed no relevant financial relationships.

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