US Mortality Rate at Historic Low

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.


About epihealth

Professor Emeritus of Epidemiology and Medical Geography, University of Washington, Seattle. Formerly Adjunct Prof, Depts of Medicine (Div of Infectious Diseases), Family Medicine, Health Services, and Global Health. President, Health Improvement and Promotion Alliance-Ghana Expertise in infectious diseases, epidemiology and clinical epidemiology, epi. of pain, community health, travel medicine, tuberculosis, disease control.
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2 Responses to US Mortality Rate at Historic Low

  1. Sophie says:

    Dear Dr. Mayer,
    Another explanation that I recently learned was childhood vaccinations. What do you think? I think people are living longer because of the vaccinations they had when they were children. I’m not sure of the statistic of those that didn’t have it. Another reason why the US lags behind other nations may be the chemicals in certain foods.

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