New Record for U.S. Life Expectancy

CDC: Babies Born in 2004 Have Life Expectancy of 77.9 Years

Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on April 19, 2006
From the WebMD Archives

April 19, 2006 -- U.S. life expectancy continues to rise, reaching a new record in 2004, according to the CDC.

The CDC's preliminary data show that in 2004, life expectancy at birth was 77.9 years. That means that in 2004, newborn babies would have had a life expectancy of 77.9 years, and older people would have had a life expectancy of 77.9 years minus their age in 2004.

That figure -- 77.9 years -- sums up overall life expectancy in the U.S. However, women still generally live longer than men, and whites tend to outlive blacks, though those gaps are narrowing.

In 2004, women's life expectancy exceeded men's life expectancy by 5.2 years, the smallest gender gap in life expectancy since 1946. Life expectancy for whites was five years greater than that of blacks.

Life expectancy for black and white men and women was as follows:

  • Black male: 69.8 years
  • White male: 75.7 years
  • Black female: 76.5 years
  • White female: 80.8 years

All black and white adults hit record highs in life expectancy, the CDC states.

Top 15 Causes of Death

The CDC's data also show the top 15 causes of death for U.S. adults, based on birth certificates and medical files:

  • Heart disease
  • Cancer
  • Stroke
  • Chronic lower respiratory diseases
  • Accidents
  • Diabetes
  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Influenza and pneumonia
  • Kidney disease
  • Septicemia (overwhelming infection)
  • Suicide
  • Chronic liver disease and cirrhosis
  • High blood pressure and hypertension-related kidney disease
  • Parkinson's disease
  • Pneumonitis (lung inflammation) due to solids and liquids

Deaths from heart disease, cancer, and stroke continue to decline, though those problems remain the country's top three killers. Deaths from high blood pressure and Alzheimer's disease rose in 2004.

The 2003 cause-of-death list was similar, except that Alzheimer's disease fell one notch below influenza and pneumonia in 2003, the CDC notes.

Infant mortality dropped by 1.3% from 2003-2004, a "slight" change that could have been due to chance, according to the CDC.

The CDC's records show that the 2004 infant mortality rate was 6.76 infant deaths per 1,000 live births, with birth defects accounting for most infant deaths.