HHS Study Finds Life Expectancy in the U.S. Rose to 77.2 Years in 2001

Annual Mortality Report Also Includes New Category for Terrorism Homicide

For Release: Friday, March 14, 2003

Contact: NCHS Press Office (301) 458-4800

E-mail: paoquery@cdc.gov

Deaths: Preliminary Data for 2001. NVSR Vol. 51, No. 5. 45 pp. (PHS) 2003-1120. pdf icon[PDF – 2.1 MB]

Americans’ life expectancy hit an all-time high in 2001, while age-adjusted deaths hit an all-time low, according to a new report released today by HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson.

The report from HHS’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) documents that the national age-adjusted death rate decreased slightly from 869 deaths per 100,000 population in 2000 to 855 deaths per 100,000 in 2001. There were declines in mortality among most racial, ethnic, and gender groups.

Meanwhile, life expectancy hit a new high of 77.2 years in 2001, up from 77 in 2000, and increased for both men and women as well as whites and blacks. For men, life expectancy increased from 74.3 years in 2000 to 74.4 years in 2001; for women, life expectancy increased from 79.7 years to 79.8 years. Record high life expectancies were observed for white men and for both black men and women.

“This report highlights some encouraging progress, including a continued reduction in death rates from the Nation’s three leading killers — heart disease, cancer, and stroke,” Secretary Thompson said. “At the same time, it reminds us that we need to do more to reduce the health disparities that disproportionately affect certain racial and ethnic groups.”

It includes a new sub-category for homicide -– deaths from terrorism –- that was added as a result of the September 11 attacks. Although the overall U.S. homicide rate increased nearly 17 percent between 2000 and 2001, the increase is attributable entirely to the murders resulting from the September 11 attacks on America. In fact, non-terrorism homicide rates actually declined slightly between 2000 and 2001.

Among leading causes of death, there were declines in mortality from heart disease (nearly 4 percent), cancer (2 percent), stroke (nearly 5 percent), and accidents/unintentional injuries (nearly 2 percent). The biggest decline in mortality among leading causes of death was for influenza/pneumonia (more than 7 percent).

The age-adjusted death rate from HIV/AIDS declined nearly 4 percent between 2000 and 2001, a bigger decline than the year before and continuing a trend that has occurred since 1995. Over this 6-year period, mortality from HIV has declined nearly 70 percent after increasing over 191 percent between 1987 and 1994.

However, HIV remains the sixth leading cause of death for people ages 25-44, and a leading cause of death among African-Americans in this age group.

“People with HIV are living longer, no question about it, and that is something we’re very pleased about,” said CDC Director Julie Gerberding. “However, much remains unclear. What is the long-term efficacy of anti-AIDS drugs, for example? Also, since new HIV infections continue to occur, we must remain focused on HIV prevention and keep positive trends in perspective.”

The report shows that mortality increased for some leading causes of death, including: kidney disease (3.7 percent), hypertension (3 percent) and Alzheimer’s disease (5 percent). In addition, the infant mortality rate remained unchanged between 2000 and 2001, at 6.9 infant deaths per 1,000 live births.

The report “Deaths: Preliminary Data for 2001” was prepared by CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics based on the data recorded on more than 97 percent of State death certificates issued in 2001. The full report is available at CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics Web site.


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