Life Expectancy Up, Death Rate Down


NEW YORK (MainStreet) – The age-adjusted death rate for the U.S. population is at an all-time low, according to recent data from the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS).

There were 741 deaths per 100,000 people in 2009 according to the NCHS, a division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, putting the death rate 2.3% lower than it was in 2008. Overall, there were 2,436,682 deaths in the U.S. in 2009 – 36,336 fewer than the year before.

Want some more good news? Life expectancy at birth increased to 78.2 years based on the recent statistics, up slightly from 78 years in 2008. Life expectancy was up two-tenths of a year for males (75.7 years) and up one-tenth of a year for females (80.6 years).

The slight uptick was concentrated in the white population, as life expectancy for black males (70.9 years) and females (77.4 years) was unchanged in 2009. The gap in life expectancy between the white and black populations was 4.3 years in 2009, up two-tenths from the gap in 2008 of 4.1 years.

The statistics are based on death certificates from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories. The numbers are still considered preliminary data, so an explanation for the increase will not be available until a full analysis is completed later this year.

The NCHS did find that the death rates declined significantly for 10 of the 15 leading causes of death in its latest measured year. Heart disease, the number one cause of death in the U.S., declined by 3.7%. Cancer declined by 1.1%, chronic lower respiratory diseases by 4.1% and stroke by 4.2%.

Additionally, the number of murders fell 6.8% in 2009. The number of suicides, however,  increased by 1.7%, causing it to pass septicemia (blood poisoning generally caused by infection) to become the 10th leading cause of death. It was the only leading cause of death to experience an increase from 2008 to 2009. Otherwise, the rankings for the 15 leading causes of death did not change between 2008 and 2009.

A population that lives longer could be a big strain on Social Security. Recently, a debt group commissioned by President Obama to investigate budget matters suggested raising the age to match our ageing population would alleviate some of the pressure on the system. You can read about their arguments for doing so in this MainStreet article.

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