Americans Living Longer Thanks to Better Health

Life expectancy throughout the United States has reached an all-time high, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The federal agency recently reported that the average American can be expected to live close to 78 years.

The report, released December 16, stated that, “Much of these increases in life expectancy are attributed to reductions in the rates of death from the major causes of death, namely, heart disease, cancer, chronic lower respiratory diseases, and stroke.”

The death rate has also dropped to a record low, at 760.3 deaths per 100,000 people. The death rate remains highest in the Southeast and lowest in Hawaii.

Based on data from nearly 90% of death certificates in 2007, the CDC study found that life expectancy that year was boosted to 77.9 years, up 1.4 years since the turn of the century. Women can expect to live an average of 80.4 years. For men, average life expectancy is 75.3 years.

White women continue to have the longest life expectancy, at 80.7 years; for black women, life expectancy is 77.0 years. Black men have the lowest life expectancy, 70.2 years. The discrepancy between life expectancies of white and black populations decreased by 35% between 1989 and 2007, but the differential is still 4.6 years.

According to William O’Neill, MD, executive dean for clinical affairs at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, the upsurge in life expectancy can be attributed to better healthcare and treatments available to Americans. He especially spotlighted major improvements in treating coronary artery disease, the number one killer in the country.

Despite the news that Americans will live longer, the question of whether they will prosper may be another story. O’Neill cited retirement planning as a concern for individuals living longer than their predecessors, saying Social Security and Medicare were not designed for the life expectancies the country is seeing now.

For other articles in this issue, see:

Top 10 Health Innovations of 2009

Teen Prescription Drug Abuse Grows

Iowa Rx Board to Take Input on Medical Marijuana