Vital Statistics Report Shows Significant Gain in Health

For Release: Thursday, September 11, 1997

Contact: Jeff Lancashire or Mary Jones, (301) 458-4800

Births and Deaths: United States, 1996 [PDF – 269 KB]

Broad gains in the nation’s health, including a dramatic decline in the AIDS death rate as well as continued decline in the teen birth rate, was reported today by HHS’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The annual report, showing preliminary birth and death statistics for the United States in 1996, indicates that:

  • HIV/AIDS mortality declined 26 percent between 1995 and 1996, falling from the leading cause of death among 25-44 year-olds to the second leading cause of death in that age group.
  • the teen birth rate declined for a fifth straight year
  • a new record low was achieved in the infant mortality rate
  • the number of women obtaining early prenatal care continued to increase.

“There is a wealth of good news in this report, and I’m particularly encouraged by the progress we are making against AIDS,” said HHS Secretary Donna E. Shalala. “In 1993, this Administration began a sustained prevention, treatment, and research effort that continues to pay off today in ways we scarcely dared to hope. The 26 percent decline in deaths from HIV/AIDS in a single year reported by CDC today is truly a remarkable achievement.”

The report shows the national age-adjusted death rate from HIV/AIDS dropped an estimated 26 percent between 1995 and 1996, from 15.6 deaths per 100,000 population in 1995 to 11.6 in 1996.

HIV infection, previously the leading cause of death for those 25-44, now ranks second behind accidents and adverse effects and just ahead of cancer. Earlier this summer, preliminary findings from another CDC survey had reported a similar pattern of decline in AIDS deaths over the first nine months of 1996. HIV/AIDS mortality had increased an average of 16 percent per year between 1987 and 1994, before leveling off in 1995.

The new report, “Births and Deaths, United States: 1996,” is prepared each year by CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics.

“This report contains good news for 1996, and more important, it shows positive trends continuing over an extended period of time,” said CDC Director David Satcher, M.D., Ph.D. “The investments we have made in education and prevention programs are paying real dividends — healthier babies, fewer teen pregnancies and births, and a reduction in the tragic human toll from HIV and AIDS. With a sustained commitment, our national partnership can continue to improve.”

This new vital statistics report contains preliminary data based on over 90 percent of birth and death records reported to states. The report reveals a number of other encouraging findings as well:

  • The age-adjusted homicide rate dropped an estimated 11 percent in 1996, from 9.4 homicides per 100,000 population in 1995 to 8.4 in 1996.
  • The age-adjusted suicide rate dropped an estimated 4 percent in 1996, from 11.2 to 10.8.
  • Life expectancy reached an all-time high of 76.1 years in 1996, up from 75.8 in 1995. Record high life expectancies were reached for white and black males (73.8 and 66.1 years, respectively), and for black females (74.2). The gender gap in life expectancy narrowed from 6.4 years in 1995 to 6.0 years in 1996, while the race differential between the white and black populations narrowed from 6.9 years to 6.5 years.
  • Infant mortality reached another new low of 7.2 deaths per 1,000 live births. The white infant mortality rate declined 5 percent (from 6.3 to 6.0), while the black rate declined 6 percent (from 15.1 to 14.2). An estimated 15 percent decline in mortality rates from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) explains approximately a third of the 1995-96 decline in total infant mortality.
  • The teen birth rate for 15-19 year-olds dropped 4 percent in 1996, from 56.8 to 54.7. The teen birth rate has declined by 12 percent since 1991. In 1996 the birth rate for teens ages 15-17 dropped 6 percent while the rate for 18-19 year-olds dropped 3 percent. Among black teens 15-17 years of age, the rate fell 7 percent between 1995 and 1996 and 23 percent between 1991 and 1996.
  • Unmarried childbearing remained essentially level in 1996, with a slight decline in the birth rate for unmarried women.
  • The proportion of mothers beginning care in the first trimester (82 percent) improved again in 1996 (from 81 percent in 1995). Early care improved among white (84 percent), black (71 percent), and Hispanic mothers (72 percent) in 1996.
  • The cesarean delivery rate declined for the seventh consecutive year (20.6 percent for 1996).
  • The report contained some less positive findings as well:
  • The percent of babies born low birthweight increased slightly from 7.3 in 1995 to 7.4 in 1996, the highest level reported in more than two decades.
  • Although they have declined for the total population, homicide and suicide remain the second and third leading cause of death respectively among young persons ages 15-24.

Data from this report come from birth and death certificates filed in the states and provided to the Federal Government through the National Vital Statistics System.

The report can be downloaded from the NCHS home page