U.S. Life Expectancy Best Ever, Says CDC

Life Expectancy Hovers Just Below 78 Years

Feb. 28, 2005 -- Americans are living longer than ever before. If all goes well, you and yours may outlive previous generations, with record-breaking life expectancy.

Life expectancy is 77.6 years, says the CDC, using numbers from 2003. That's an all-time high, up slightly from 77.3 years in 2002.

As more people add candles to their birthday cakes, the causes of death in the U.S. are starting to shift.

Heart disease and cancer are still the two deadliest conditions, but their death rates are dropping. Meanwhile, deaths from diseases mainly seen in elders -- like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease -- are on the rise.

Many Groups Are Living Longer

White and black men and women have all reached unprecedented life expectancies. Here are their life expectancies and the change in death rates since 2002:

  • White men: 75.4 years (death rate down 2.1%)
  • Black men: 69.2 years (death rate down 2.5%)
  • White women: 80.5 years (death rate down 1.2%)
  • Black women: 76.1 years (death rate down 2.4%)

Life expectancy also improved for Hispanic men (by 4.2%), Hispanic women (by 1.8%), and Asian-Pacific Islander men (by 3.8%). Death rates didn't change for American Indian men and women or Asian-Pacific Islander women.

Women Still Outlive Men but by Fewer Years

Women tend to live longer than men, but the gap is narrowing.

Including all races, women now live 80.1 years, compared to men's' 74.8 years. Both are new highs.

Women now outlive men by 5.3 years. That's down from a peak of 7.8 years in 1979. Since then, men's life expectancy gains have outpaced those of women, says the CDC.

Fewer Heart Disease, Cancer Deaths

Heart disease and cancer remain America's leading causes of death. Together, they accounted for more than 1.2 million deaths -- slightly more than half (51%) of all 2003 deaths, says the CDC.

But fewer people are dying of those conditions and others. Here's a look at those declines since 2002:


  • Heart disease deaths: down 3.6%
  • Cancer deaths: down 2.2%
  • Stroke deaths: down 4.6%
  • Suicide: down 3.7%
  • Flu and pneumonia: down 3.1%
  • Chronic liver disease and cirrhosis: down 2.1%
  • Accidents (unintentional injuries): down 2.2%
  • Homicide: down 4.9%
  • HIV-related disease: down 4.1%
  • Alcohol-induced deaths: down 4.3%
  • Drug-induced deaths: down 3.3%
  • Firearm injuries: down 2.9%
  • Injury at work: down 13%



More Deaths From Alzheimer's Disease, High Blood Pressure

Death rates rose in these areas since 2002:




Two of those conditions -- Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease -- are usually seen in senior citizens. But age isn't the only hazard. Ignorance is also a problem when it comes to high blood pressure.

Nearly one in three U.S. adults has high blood pressure, but about a third of them don't know it, says the American Heart Association. That can change with a quick blood pressure test.

Infant Mortality Unchanged

The infant death rate stayed unchanged at 6.9 infant deaths per 1,000 live births. For black babies, the rate is nearly twice as high as white infants: 14.1 per 1,000 live births.

Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) dropped nearly 15%. That may be due to delayed reporting, but SIDS deaths have been falling since 1988, says the CDC.

Build a Longer, Healthier Life

Want to lengthen your life? Many health problems can be prevented or treated. See your doctor to gauge your health and learn how nutrition, fitness, lifestyle, and other treatments can help.

Show Sources

SOURCES: CDC, "Deaths: Preliminary Data for 2003." News release, CDC. American Heart Association, "High Blood Pressure."
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