Life Expectancy Drops for First Time in 4 Years

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — If high unemployment and an unstable housing market weren’t enough to make you feel a little uneasy about living in this country right now, here’s one more thing to add to the list: More Americans are dying, and sooner.

Life expectancy in the U.S. dropped to 77.8 years in 2008, from 77.9 years in 2007. It’s the first decrease in four years, according to newly released data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The drop was the same for both men and women, as life expectancy fell by one tenth of one percent for both groups: Males born in 2008 are expected to live 75.3 years and women should reach the ripe old age of 80.3.

Not only are we expected to die slightly younger, but more of us are dying, period. According to the report, 2,473,018 people died in the U.S. in 2008, a rate of 813.3 deaths per 100,000 people. That was 803.6 per 100,000 in 2007, or 1.2% lower.

The CDC’s report, Deaths: Preliminary Data for 2008, is based on death records filed nationwide. While the report does not offer an explanation for the decline in life expectancy (we’ll just assume it’s due to stress from the Great Recession), it does provide a list of the leading causes of death.

In 2008, the two leading causes of death were heart disease and malignant neoplasms (tumors). Deaths from chronic lower respiratory diseases increased significantly in 2008, placing that disease category third on the list, and pushing strokes to fourth place after 50 years as the third leading cause of death in America.

Overall, the report found that substantially more Americans died from Alzheimer’s, influenza and suicide in 2008 than the year before.

For all the bad news in the report, there was a little bit of good news as well. The infant mortality rate dropped significantly, with 5.1% fewer children under the age of 1 dying in 2008 than in 2007. Likewise, the number of kids who died between 5 and 14 dropped by 7.8% year-over-year. So if nothing else, at least children are safer now.

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