Sunday, March 17, 2013
US lex fell down
Life expectancy of Americans fell for the first time in 15 years, as the nation’s oldest adults died from heart disease, cancer and respiratory ailments, according to a report by the National Center for Health Statistics.
Based on data from 2008, the latest available, life expectancy in the U.S. fell 36.5 days from 2007 to 77.8 years, according to the report released today. Life expectancy is calculated by taking the death rates from the U.S. population in a specific year and figuring out the average number of years remaining for a person born in 2008.
Children born in 2008 lost a little over a month of expected life. The drop in expectancy was largely the effect of increased mortality among the oldest adults -- those at least 85 -- and a rise in age-related ailments such as Alzheimer’s, high blood pressure, kidney disease, flu and pneumonia, according to the report. Infant mortality declined, as did deaths among all age groups under 85.
“It’s hard for us to tell exactly what’s driving this,” said Arialdi Minino, a statistician at the health center and one of the report’s authors. The number of older people who died “has been going up consistently, and in this particular year, there was a little more of that than we usually see.”
The drop in life expectancy was mostly in the white population, which fell 73 days, while the rate among black women was unchanged at 76.8 years, and rose among black men to an all- time high of 70.2 years. The infant mortality rate fell 2.4 percent to 6.59 deaths for every 1,000 births in 2008.
“Since the increase in mortality is affecting people who are above age 85, it may just be there are a lot fewer African- Americans who make it to that age,” said Sam Harper, an epidemiologist at McGill University in Montreal.
Declines are uncommon, occurring about once a decade, said Harper. The last decrease in life expectancy was in 1993, he said.
Chronic respiratory diseases, such as asthma and emphysema, displaced stroke as the third-leading cause of death after cancer and heart disease.
Chronic respiratory disease may also have risen because the method of reporting changed at the World Health Organization’s request, said Minino. Until more data come in, it won’t be clear if the decrease in life expectancy is a statistical hiccup, Minino said.
Deaths from stroke dropped, continuing a consistent decline that started in 2000, said Minino. Heart disease also declined.
“Both of these conditions have gone down and both are related to circulatory well-being,” said Minino in a telephone interview.
The health statistics center is part of the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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