HHS Issues Annual Health, United States Report, with Special Profile of Women's Health

Press Release

Health, United States, 1995 pdf icon[PDF – 2.1 MB]

For Release: Immediately (June 18, 1996)

Contact: NCHS Press Office, Sandra Smith or Jeffrey Lancashire (301) 458-4800

HHS Secretary Donna E. Shalala today released a special report on the health of American women, as HHS issued the 20th edition of its annual report on the Nation’s health, Health, United States, 1995.

Prepared by the National Center for Health Statistics, the annual report covers health status, health care resources and utilization, and health care expenditures. A special chartbook section this year tracks major trends in women’s health and compares the health of women and men.

“We need to pay more attention to women’s health issues,” said Secretary Shalala. “Much of this report contains good news for women, but these statistics also tell us that there remains a great deal of work ahead. The Clinton Administration has committed to do its part toward improving the health of American women.”

Since 1993 HHS has launched a number of initiatives aimed at special health needs for women. These include a first-ever National Breast Cancer Plan, as well as new efforts to counter domestic violence, including a new toll-free hot-line for reporting or discussing abuse (1-800-799-SAFE).

Among the women’s health highlights in today’s report:

Life expectancy at birth for U.S. women is 79 years now, up from 48 years at the turn of the century and almost 7 years longer than for men. Death rates for most causes are higher for men than for women.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for all women, but for those aged 25-74 years, cancer is the leading cause of death and lung cancer the leading cause of cancer mortality.

Death rates due to smoking-related illnesses are rising rapidly among women. Between the early 1970’s and the early 1990’s, the incidence of lung cancer more than doubled and the death rate for lung cancer almost tripled among women. The death rate for chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases (includes asthma, bronchitis, and emphysema) more than doubled for women between 1979 and 1993.

As tobacco use declined over the past few decades, the drop has been more notable for men. In 1965, 52 percent of men 18 years of age and over and 34 percent of women smoked; by 1990 men were only slightly more likely (28 percent) than women to smoke (23 percent), with little change from 1990 to the present.

The pattern of breast cancer incidence and mortality differs by race. Between 1973 and 1991 breast cancer incidence was 15-25 percent higher for white women, but mortality among black women is higher and that gap is increasing. In 1993 breast cancer mortality was 28 percent higher for black women.

The percent of women 50 years of age and over who had a mammogram in the past 2 years more than doubled between 1987 and 1993, from 27 to 60 percent. However, the use of mammography varied significantly by health care coverage. In 1993 women 50-64 years of age enrolled in HMO’s were 3 times as likely to have a recent mammogram as women with no insurance.

Almost a third of adult women lead a sedentary life, and the proportion of women who are overweight has increased from 1 in 4 to 1 in 3 over the past decade.

AIDS and AIDS-opportunistic illnesses among women in the United States have been increasing, diminishing the gender differential in the prevalence and impact of AIDS. In 1985 AIDS-opportunistic illnesses were an estimated 13 times as prevalent among men as among women, but with the latest data for 1994, the rate among men was just under 5 times that for women.

Although men are still at higher risk than women for many fatal diseases, women are at higher risk for many nonfatal chronic conditions, including arthritis and osteoporosis. Severe or moderately reduced bone density affects 7 out of 10 women over age 50, and arthritis affected a third of women aged 45-64 years and half of women aged 65 years and over.

Because many of the conditions that are more prevalent among women are disabling, middle-aged and older women are about 80 percent more likely than men to report difficulties taking care of themselves or their homes. And women are much more likely to be under the care of a home health agency.

Women, and particularly poor women, were much more likely to be victims of violent crime committed by an intimate (a current or former partner) or relative. In 1992-93 the victimization rate of women by intimates was nearly 7 times as high for women as for men, and for women in the lowest income group more than 4 times that for women in the highest income group.

The annual Health, United States report provides a comprehensive survey of the major indicators of health in America. The report also examines health care resources and utilization.

According to the new report, HMO enrollment is increasing, with 18 percent of the population — 46 million people — enrolled in health maintenance organizations in 1995. HMO enrollment ranged from 11 percent in the South to 29 percent in the West.

The age-adjusted proportion of persons with private health care coverage dropped from 77 to 70 percent for those under 65 years of age, and there was an increase from 6 to 10 percent in the population covered by Medicaid between 1989 and 1994.

Health care coverage was closely associated with family income. Among persons with the lowest family income of less than $14,000, 35 percent were without health care coverage. The situation was little improved for those in the income group of $14,000 to $25,000, where 30 percent were without coverage. In the highest income group ($50,000 or more), only 6 percent had no health care coverage.


Page last reviewed: November 17, 2009