American life expectancy declines

Published 7:40 pm Saturday, December 18, 2010

Americans lost about 1/10 of a year in life expectancy in 2008, and stroke fell from the third leading cause of death for the first time in 50 years.

The Centers for Disease Control’s National Center for Health Statistics released its report on the 2008 numbers last week.

While life expectancy was down overall, the statistic climbed to an all-time high for black males (70.2 years). Life expectancy remained unchanged for black females, while males and females as a whole both lost life expectancy.

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Heart disease and cancer, the two leading causes of death, still account for 48 percent of all deaths in 2008. However, stroke fell from the third leading cause of death, surpassed by chronic lower respiratory diseases — a group that includes conditions such as asthma, emphysema and chronic bronchitis.

In addition to stroke, mortality rates declined significantly for five of the other 15 leading causes of death: accidents (3.5 percent), homicide (3.3 percent), diabetes (3.1 percent), heart disease (2.2 percent) and cancer (1.6 percent).

However, mortality rates increased significantly in 2008 for several other causes besides chronic lower respiratory disease, including Alzheimer’s disease (7.5 percent), influenza and pneumonia (4.9 percent), hypertension (4.1 percent), suicide (2.7 percent) and kidney disease (2.1 percent).

The news for infants was particularly good in the 2008 numbers. The preliminary infant mortality rate fell to an all-time low — 6.59 infant deaths per 1,000 live births. Birth defects were the leading cause of infant death in 2008, followed by disorders related to preterm birth and low birth weight. Sudden infant death syndrome was the third leading cause.

The numbers are based on 99 percent of death certificates reported from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories.