Life Expectancy Still Heading Higher

U.S. Life Expectancy Rose By More Than a Year From 1997 to 2007

Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on August 19, 2009
From the WebMD Archives

Aug. 19, 2009 -- Life expectancy continues its upward trend in the U.S., notching up by about two-and-a-half months in 2007 over 2006.

That may not sound like a lot, but step back and look at the gain over a decade: Babies born in 2007 have a life expectancy that's 1.4 years greater than babies born in 1997.

Here are the latest life expectancy figures, as published by the CDC today, based on preliminary data from 2007:

  • Overall life expectancy for babies born in 2007: 77.9 years (up from 77.7 years in 2006)
  • Life expectancy for white females born in 2007: 80.7 years (up from 80.6 years in 2006)
  • Life expectancy for white males born in 2007: 75.8 years (up from 75.7 years in 2006)
  • Life expectancy for black females born in 2007: 77 years (up from 76.5 years in 2006)
  • Life expectancy for black males born in 2007: 70.2 years (up from 69.7 years in 2006)

The report also lists the top 15 causes of death among U.S. adults and the change in their age-adjusted death rate since 2006:

  1. Heart disease: down 4.7%
  2. Cancer: down 1.8%
  3. Stroke: down 4.6%
  4. Chronic lower respiratory diseases (lung diseases): up 1.7%
  5. Accidents: down 5%
  6. Alzheimer's disease: no significant change
  7. Diabetes: down 3.9%
  8. Influenza and pneumonia: down 8.4%
  9. Kidney disease: no significant change
  10. Septicemia (an infection that affects the blood and other parts of the body): unchanged
  11. Suicide: no significant change
  12. Chronic liver disease and cirrhosis: no significant change
  13. High blood pressure (hypertension): down 2.7%
  14. Parkinson's disease: no significant change
  15. Homicide: down 6.5%

The preliminary infant death rate was 6.77 infant deaths per 1,000 live births -- essentially unchanged from 2006. The top three causes of infant death were birth defects, disorders related to short gestation and low birth weight, and sudden infant death syndrome.

A total of 2,423,995 people of all ages died in 2007, down from 2,426,264 in 2006, and the nation's age-adjusted death rate dropped.

The CDC will publish final life expectancy and death data for 2007 later this year. Cause of death data may change, as the cause for some 2007 deaths may not have been determined in time for the CDC's preliminary report.

Curious about how U.S. life expectancy stacks up against the rest of the world? In May, a World Health Organization report showed that Japan has the world's highest life expectancy -- 83 years -- while the African nations of Burkina Faso, Burundi, Mali, and Nigeria have a life expectancy of 49.