Life Expectancy Hits Record High Gender Gap Narrows

For Release: February 28, 2005

Contact: CDC National Center for Health Statistics Press Office, (301) 458-4800


Deaths: Preliminary Data for 2003. NVSR Volume 53, Number 15. 48 pp. (PHS) 2004-1120 [PDF – 1.3 MB]

Life expectancy for Americans has reached an all-time high, according to the latest U.S. mortality statistics released today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The report, “Deaths: Preliminary Data for 2003,” prepared by CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), shows life expectancy at 77.6 years in 2003, up from 77.3 in 2002.

The gap between male and female life expectancy closed from 5.4 years in 2002 to 5.3 years in 2003, continuing a trend toward narrowing since the peak gap of 7.8 years in 1979. Record-high life expectancies were found for white males (75.4 years) and black males (69.2 males), as well as for white females (80.5 years) and black females (76.1 years).

Other findings in the report include:

  • The preliminary age-adjusted death rate in the U.S. reached an all-time low in 2003 of 831.2 deaths per 100,000 population.
  • Age-adjusted death rates declined for eight of the 15 leading causes of death. Declines were seen for heart disease (down 3.6 percent) and cancer (down 2.2 percent), the two leading causes of death which account for more than half of all deaths in the United States each year. Declines were also documented for stroke (4.6 percent), suicide (3.7 percent), flu/pneumonia (3.1 percent), chronic liver disease and cirrhosis (2.1 percent), and accidents/unintentional injuries (2.2. percent).
  • After the first infant mortality rate increase in 44 years in 2002, the rate for 2003 did not change significantly (6.9 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2003 compared to a rate of 7.0 per 1,000 in 2002.)
  • Firearm mortality dropped nearly 3 percent between 2002 and 2003.
  • The preliminary age-adjusted death rate for HIV declined 4.1 percent between 2002 and 2003, continuing a downward trend observed since 1994.
  • Age-adjusted death rates from alcohol dropped 4.3 percent and the rate for drug-related deaths fell 3.3 percent in 2003.
  • Mortality increased for the following leading causes of death: Alzheimer’s disease, kidney disease, hypertension, and Parkinson’s disease.

The report is based on data recorded from approximately 93 percent of state death certificates issued in 2003. “Deaths: Preliminary Data for 2003” is available at the CDC/NCHS Web site.