AIDS Falls From Top Fifteen Causes Of Death; Teen Births, Homicides Decline; But No Change In Infant Mortality

For Release: Tuesday, October 5, 1999

Contact: NCHS Press Office (301) 436-7551


Births and Deaths: Preliminary Data for 1998. Vol. 47, No. 25. 48. pp. (PHS) 99-1120. [PDF – 362 KB]

Rates for AIDS deaths, homicide, and teen births all dropped again in 1998, but the U.S. infant mortality rate leveled off after years of decline, according to new preliminary vital statistics released today by HHS Secretary Donna E. Shalala.

The data were published in a new report, “Births and Deaths: Preliminary Data for 1998,” prepared by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), a part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“Today’s report confirms the many positive trends in America today: longer life expectancy, fewer teen births, lower rates of violent crime and homicides, and a significant decline in deaths from HIV and AIDS,” Secretary Shalala said. “But it’s important that we continue to work together to broaden our progress in disease prevention. This is particularly true in communities of color, which still suffer disproportionately from infant mortality and AIDS.”

Key findings in the report include the following:

  • The age-adjusted death rate from HIV infection in the U.S. declined an estimated 21 percent to a rate of 4.6 deaths per 100,000 in 1998, the lowest rate since 1987, after a 48 percent decline from 1996 to 1997. HIV mortality has declined more than 70 percent since 1995. The disease was the eighth leading cause of death in 1996, dropped out of the top 10 leading causes of death last year, and no longer ranks among the top 15 leading causes of death today. However, for the 25-44 year age group the disease still ranks fifth among leading causes of death.
  • The trends in AIDS death rates are uneven across racial and ethnic groups. HIV remains the leading cause of death among African American men ages 25-44, and the third leading cause of death among African American women in the same age group.
  • The preliminary age-adjusted homicide rate fell an estimated 14 percent in 1998, the fifth straight year of decline. However, homicide remained the leading cause of death for black males 15-24 years of age.
  • Life expectancy reached a record high of 76.7 years for everyone born in 1998.
  • Timely prenatal care also reached record levels in 1998 as an estimated 82.8 percent of women received care in their first trimester of pregnancy.
  • The teen birth rate also fell 2 percent in 1998, continuing a 7-year trend. The birth rates for teenagers 15-17 years dropped 5 percent for 1998 to a record low of 30.4 per 1,000. From 1991-98, birth rates for non-Hispanic white and black teens 15-19 years dropped steeply: 19 percent and 26 percent, respectively.

“Reducing teen pregnancy and teen birth rates has been a national goal, so this trend is very encouraging,” said CDC Director, Dr. Jeffrey Koplan. “It is the result of a lot of very hard work with our partners at the Federal, State, and grassroots level. But we can’t afford to stop our efforts now — too many teenagers are still jeopardizing their futures.”

Other findings in this report were less encouraging:

  • No change in the preliminary infant mortality rate. In 1998, the overall infant mortality rate was 7.2 infant deaths per 1,000 live births, the same as the record low reported in 1997. It is the first time there has been no improvement in this measure in nearly four decades. In addition, disparities remain between different race groups, as the rate for black infants is still twice the rate for white infants.
  • An increase in nonmarital childbearing. The preliminary number of births to unmarried women in 1998 was 3 percent higher than in 1997, due mostly to the increase in the number of unmarried women of childbearing age. The birth rate for unmarried women was 44.3 per 1,000, one percent higher than in 1997, but below the peak level reported for 1994.
  • An increase in the percent of low birthweight babies (less than 2,500 grams). Low birthweight babies accounted for 7.6 percent of all births, compared to 7.5 percent in 1997. This increase was confined to non-Hispanic white women. The percent of low birth weight babies remained unchanged for births to African American and Hispanic women, although the proportion of low birth weight babies for African American women is still almost twice that of white and Hispanic women.
  • An increase in the percent of cesarean deliveries, from 20.8 percent of all deliveries in 1997 to 21.2 percent in 1998. The primary cesarean rate (the proportion of first cesarean deliveries among women with no previous cesareans) increased by 2 percent in 1998, the first increase observed since these data were first collected from birth certificates in 1989.

The report features preliminary data collected through the National Vital Statistics System from more than 85 percent of death and 99 percent of birth records. The information on causes of death is recorded on death certificates by physicians, medical examiners, and coroners, and is then reported to the States. “Births and Deaths: Preliminary Data for 1998,” is available at the NCHS Web site.

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