According to the National Center for Health Statistics, life expectancy in the US has reached an historic high, while mortality is now at an all time low. Mortality rates have decreased in each of the past 10 years. The age-adjusted mortality rate is now 741 per 100,000. The NCHS report notes that this represents a decrease of 30% since 1980.
Life expectancy at birth for females is 80.6 years, and for males it is 75.7 years. Notably, however, the existing gap between whites and blacks actually grew over the past year.
Cause-specific rankings have not changed, with coronary heart disease, cancers (all), chronic respiratory disease (COPD, which is chronic bronchitis and emphysema) and cerebrovascular disease (mostly stroke) heading up the list.
The causes of the decline have been debated. Undoubtedly, there is a combination of prevention, lifestyle changes, and more effective acute medical treatment that are among the explanations. But are there other explanations? And why does the US lag far behind other “developed” nations, and some middle income nations? Attention in the past decade has been devoted to income disparity and less “social capital” in the US–less feeling of social community. These explanations have been statistical and the links between social and pathophysiologic are yet to be established.