Death in the United States, 2007
On This Page
- Key findings
- What is the risk of dying in the United States?
- Are there differences by age in the risk of dying?
- Do death rates vary by state?
- Does the risk of dying differ by race and ethnicity?
- How long can we expect to live?
- What are the leading causes of death?
- Data sources and methods
- About the authors
- Suggested citation
NCHS Data Brief No. 26, December 2009
PDF Version (1.2 MB)
Arialdi M. Miniño, M.P.H.; Jiaquan Xu, M.D.; Kenneth D. Kochanek, M.A.; and Betzaida Tejada-Vera, B.S.
Data from the National Vital Statistics System, Mortality
- In 2007, the age-adjusted death rate for the United States reached a record low of 760.3 per 100,000 population. Life expectancy at birth reached a record high of 77.9 years.
- States in the southeast region have higher death rates than those in other regions of the country.
- In 2007, the five leading causes of death were heart disease, cancer, stroke, chronic lower respiratory diseases, and accidents. These accounted for over 64 percent of all deaths in the United States.
- White females have the longest life expectancy (80.7 years), followed by black females (77.0 years).
- The gap in life expectancy between white persons and black persons declined by 35 percent between 1989 and 2007. The race differential was 4.6 years in 2007.
Mortality in the United States, as summarized by the age-adjusted death rate-a measure that accounts for changes in the age distribution of the population-has declined in an almost uninterrupted manner since 1960. The death rate is now 43 percent lower than in 1960 (declining from 1,339.2 per 100,000 standard population in 1960 to 760.3 in 2007) (1,2). However, not all Americans have benefited equally from this decline. While there is a decline in mortality among all groups, longstanding gaps only recently began to diminish. Much of the recent improvements in death rates and life expectancy for all population groups can be attributed to ongoing reductions in death rates from major causes of death such as heart disease, cancer, chronic lower respiratory diseases, and stroke (1).
Keywords: mortality, National Vital Statistics System, life expectancy
The number of deaths in the United States for 2007 was 2,423,995 (preliminary data). The age-adjusted death rate reached a record low of 760.3 per 100,000 population in 2007.
From 2000–2007, age-adjusted death rates decreased by 14.0 percent for males and by 12.0 percent for females (Figure 1).
Age-adjusted death rates for males were 44.2 percent higher than for females in 1980. This declined to 40.8 percent higher in 2007.
Death rates by age are lowest among 5–9 year olds (Figure 2). In 2007, 72.5 percent of all deaths occurred among those aged 65 and over, and 29.5 percent occurred at age 85 and over.
States experience different risks of mortality. Hawaii has the lowest age-adjusted death rate of all the states at 20 percent lower than the average rate for the United States (760.3 deaths per 100,000 population). West Virginia had the highest state age-adjusted death rate in 2007, at 25 percent higher than the average U.S. rate.
In general, states in the southeast region have higher rates than those in other regions of the country (Figure 3). Kentucky, for example, has an age-adjusted death rate of 897.6 deaths per 100,000 population and Alabama has a rate of 930.3 (2). States in other regions of the country, such as Illinois (758.5 deaths per 100,000 population) and Montana (772.9 deaths per 100,000 population), have rates (>2) that are more comparable to the average U.S. rate.
In 2007, the lowest mortality was reported for the Asian or Pacific Islander (API) population and the highest mortality was observed for the non-Hispanic black population (Figure 4).
The age-adjusted death rate for the API population was 46.5 percent lower than that for the non-Hispanic white population, while the rate for the non-Hispanic black population was 25.5 percent higher.
Death rates for all ethnic groups have decreased over time. Since 2000, the Hispanic population experienced the largest decrease in mortality (20.3 percent), and the non-Hispanic white population experienced the smallest mortality decline (10.4 percent) (1,2).
The U.S. life expectancy in 2007 was the highest in recorded history, reaching 77.9 years (or about 77 years and 11 months) (Figure 5). Since 2000, life expectancy has increased by 1.4 percent (or 1.1 years) for the general population (76.8 to 77.9 years), by 1.6 percent for males, and by 1.4 percent for females (1,2). Life expectancy at age 65 was 18.6 years in 2007, an increase of 6 percent since 2000 (2,3).
White females continue to have the longest life expectancy (80.7 years) followed by black females (77.0 years). The gap between the white and black populations declined 35 percent from 1989 to 2007. Despite this progress, the race differential stood at 4.6 years in 2007 (1,2). The gap between the white and black populations in life expectancy at age 65 declined 28 percent (1.8 to 1.3 years) since 1989, and 19 percent (1.6 to 1.3 years) from 2000 to 2007 (4).
In 2007, five major causes of death (heart disease, cancer, stroke, chronic lower respiratory diseases, and accidents) accounted for over 64 percent of all deaths in the United States (2). However, this general profile changes depending on the decedent’s age.
The five leading causes of death for those aged 1–24 years are external causes (i.e., accidents, homicide, suicide) followed by cancer and heart disease. This pattern (of external causes accounting for more deaths than chronic conditions) shifts noticeably as age increases. In older age groups, chronic conditions account for more deaths than do external causes of injury.
Accidents, for example, accounted for 43 percent of all deaths among persons aged 1–24 years. Heart disease, on the other hand, accounted for only 3 percent of all deaths for this same age group. For individuals aged 65 and over, heart disease is the leading cause of death, accounting for 28 percent of all deaths in this age group, whereas accidents is not one of the five leading causes of death for those aged 65 and over (Figure 6).
From 1980 to 2007, the three leading causes of death (heart disease, cancer, and stroke) have not changed in rank order. However, deaths from heart disease have tended to decrease throughout this period, whereas deaths from cancer have generally tended to increase. It is likely that, at some point in the near future, cancer will overtake heart disease as the leading cause of death in the United States.
Mortality in 2007 continued to decline among all groups defined by sex, age, and race and Hispanic ethnicity (1,2). With few exceptions, the trend is one of increases in life expectancy at birth for the population as a whole, and for white and black males and females in particular (1-3, 5-7). Although continuing declines in mortality are slowly reducing longstanding gaps in life expectancy between the black and white populations, disparities in mortality across ethnic and racial groups persist (1-3, 5-7). Much of these increases in life expectancy are attributed to reductions in the rates of death from the major causes of death, namely heart disease, cancer, chronic lower respiratory diseases, and stroke (1).
Data in this report (preliminary mortality data for 2007) are based on a large portion (91 percent of the demographic file and 87 percent of the medical file) of the statistical re-cords that are continuously received by the National Center for Health Statistics from states’ vital registration systems. This portion of records is inflated to better estimate final numbers, using independent record tallies as control factors. Tallies are provided by the states and registration areas.
The figures shown in this report reflect information that is collected on the death certificates that are filed in each of the independent registration areas throughout the United States.
Cause-of-death classification: Medical information-including injury diagnoses and external causes of injury-that is entered on death certificates filed in the United States is classified and coded in accordance with the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, Tenth Revision (ICD–10) (8).
Death rates: Except for data points showing rates prior to the year 2000, the rates in this report use population estimates based on the 2000 census. Population for the year 2000 is enumerated as of April 1 and, for subsequent years, populations are estimated as of July 1 of the respective year. These population estimates are available on the NCHS website (9). Age-adjusted death rates are useful when comparing different populations because they remove the potential bias that can occur when the populations being compared have different age structures. NCHS uses the “direct” method of standardization. See the “Technical Notes” of “Deaths: Preliminary data for 2007” (2) for more discussion.
Life expectancy: Data showing life expectancy for years 2000–2007 are based on a newly revised methodology and may differ from figures previously published. See the “Technical Notes” of “Deaths: Preliminary data for 2007” (2) for more discussion.
Arialdi M. Miniño, Jiaquan Xu, Kenneth D. Kochanek, and Betzaida Tejada-Vera are with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statis-tics, Division of Vital Statistics.
- Heron MP, Hoyert DL, Murphy SL, Xu JQ, Kochanek KD, Tejada-Vera B. Deaths: Final data for 2006. National vital statistics reports; vol 57 no 14. Hyatts-ville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2009.
- Xu J, Kochanek KD, Tejada-Vera B. Deaths: Preliminary data for 2007. National vital statistics reports; vol 58 no 1. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2009.
- Miniño AM, Arias E, Kochanek KD, Murphy SL, Smith BL. Deaths: Final data for 2000. National vital statistics reports; vol 50 no 15. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2002.
- Vital Statistics of the United States, 1989 Life Tables, Vol. II, Mortality Section 6. December 1992.
- Heron MP, Hoyert DL, Xu J, Scott C, Tejada-Vera B. Deaths: Preliminary data for 2006. National vital statistics reports; vol 56 no 16. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2008.
- Kung HC, Hoyert DL, Xu J, Murphy SL. Deaths: Preliminary data for 2005. Health E-Stats. Sept 2007.
- Miniño AM, Heron MP, Smith BL. Deaths: Preliminary data for 2004. National vital statistics reports; vol 54 no 19. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2006.
- World Health Organization. International statistical classification of diseases and related health problems, tenth revision. Geneva: World Health Organization. 1992.
- National Center for Health Statistics. National Vital Statistics System. U.S. Census populations with bridged race categories.
Miniño AM, Xu J, Kochanek KD, Tejada-Vera B. Death in the United States, 2007. NCHS data brief, no 26. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2009.
All material appearing in this report is in the public domain and may be reproduced or copied without permission; citation as to source, however, is appreciated.
National Center for Health Statistics
Edward J. Sondik, Ph.D., Director
Jennifer H. Madans, Ph.D., Associate Director for Science
Division of Vital Statistics
Charles J. Rothwell, M.S., Director
- Page last reviewed: November 6, 2015
- Page last updated: December 16, 2009
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