Vital Statistics Report Shows Broad Gains in the Nation’s Health

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

Births and Deaths: United States, 1995. Vol. 45, No. 3 supplement 2. 40 pp. (PHS) 96-1120 [PDF – 388 KB]

HHS Secretary Donna E. Shalala today released annual preliminary vital statistics findings for 1995, showing broad gains in national health indicators. According to the report, the U.S. last year achieved:

  • an historic low infant mortality rate;
  • continued increase in the number of women obtaining early pre-natal care;
  • the first decline in the birth rate for unmarried women in almost 20 years;
  • continued decline in the teen birth rate;
  • a dramatic decline in homicide rates;
  • a leveling in the HIV/AIDS death rate, for the first time since the epidemic took hold;
  • continued increase in life expectancy.

“Today we have good news about America’s health,” Secretary Shalala said. “I’m particularly pleased to see that the teen birth rate is continuing to decline, and the out-of-wedlock birth rate has decreased for the first time in nearly two decades. Preventing teen pregnancies has been one of President Clinton’s top priorities since taking office, and we must all work together to ensure these trends continue.”

“We still have challenges in every category, but we are making significant progress, and we should press ahead toward the goal of better health for all Americans.”

The report, “Births and Deaths for 1995,” prepared by the National Center for Health Statistics, part of HHS’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, contains the latest preliminary U.S. natality and mortality statistics. Highlights include:

  • The infant mortality rate reached a record low of 7.5 infant deaths per 1,000 live births in 1995, a 6 percent reduction from the previous year. Declines occurred among neonatal infants (infants under 28 days old) as well as postneonatal infants (28 days through 11 months), and among both white and black infants.
  • The proportion of mothers beginning care in the first trimester (81 percent) continued to rise for the sixth consecutive year.
  • The teen birth rate dropped an estimated 3 percent from 1994 to 1995 (56.9 per 1,000 women aged 15-19) and 8 percent from 1991 (62.1) to 1995. Declines were recorded for white, American Indian, Asian or Pacific Islander, and Hispanic teens; the rate for black teens dropped 9 percent from 1994 to 1995 and 17 percent from 1991 to 1995. This is the fourth straight year that teen birth rates have declined; teen pregnancy rates are also declining.
  • The birth rate for unmarried women dropped 4 percent from 46.9 births per 1,000 unmarried women aged 15-44 years in 1994 to 44.9 in 1995. This is the first decline in nearly two decades. The number of nonmarital births also declined three percent in 1995 to approximately 1,248,000, and the proportion of births to unmarried mothers fell two percent to an estimated 32 percent in 1995. The proportions for white (25.3 percent) and black births (69.5 percent) were about one percent lower than in 1994, while the proportion for Hispanic women (40.8 percent) was five percent lower than in 1994. This is the first time that the number, rate, and proportion of births to unmarried mothers have all declined since national data were first compiled in 1940.
  • Preliminary age-adjusted homicide rates fell sharply in 1995, by an estimated 15 percent, accounting for the largest decline among leading causes of death between 1994 and 1995. Mortality from firearms also declined between 1994 and 1995.
  • For the first time, HIV/AIDS death rates did not increase from the previous year. The age-adjusted death rate from HIV infection was 15.4 deaths per 100,000 population in 1995, the same rate as in 1994. Despite the plateau in mortality rates from HIV/AIDS, however, the number of deaths from the disease rose from 42,114 in 1994 to approximately 42,500 in 1995, the highest total ever reported.
  • The cesarean section rate declined for the sixth consecutive year (20.8 percent of live births in 1995).
  • Estimated life expectancy in 1995 matched the record high of 75.8 years attained in 1992, and was slightly above the estimate of 75.7 years of 1994. Although racial disparities still exist, life expectancy for both white and black males (73.4 and 65.4, respectively) and black females (74.0) was higher in 1995 than in previous years. For white females, life expectancy was unchanged at 79.6 years from the previous year, and slightly below the record high of 79.8 reached in 1992.

Vital statistics data are issued annually each fall. However, Secretary Shalala said, today’s report represents the results of a new initiative to improve the timeliness and quality of vital statistics in the U.S.

These preliminary data are based on up to 90 percent of all birth and death records reported to the states. In the past, “provisional” annual data on deaths were based on a 10 percent sample of records. And this is the first time that detailed birth data have been available on a preliminary basis.

“We’re putting a system into place that effectively addresses the growing public demand for faster and more accurate health information,” CDC Director David Satcher said. “We are now on a schedule to provide near-final vital statistics at least a year earlier than we used to be able to do.”

“Births and Deaths: United States, 1995,” Vol. 45, No. 3 supplement 2,can be downloaded from the National Center for Health Statistics’ (NCHS) Home Page. NCHS is part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, HHS.

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