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Deaths are on the Rise in the U.S. Again:
Some Surprising Results from a New Report

There is a bright side to the new mortality data, Deaths: Preliminary Data for 2005, released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS): life expectancy in the United States is higher than ever.

life expectancy

A baby born in 2005 has a life expectancy of 78 years, an all-time high in the United States.

A baby born in 2005 can expect to live for nearly 78 years, a new high for U.S. life expectancy.

The increase has been going strong for several decades. In 1955, for instance, U.S. life expectancy was close to 70 years, and in 1995 it had risen to nearly 76 years.

Still, life expectancy for women is about five (5.2) years longer than for men, the smallest difference since 1946.

The NCHS report is based on about 99 percent of death records from all 50 states and the District of Columbia for 2005. It documents the latest trends among the leading causes of death and infant mortality (the following statistics are preliminary data, and may change slightly when the final report is released).

More People Died, But Death Rates From the Leading Killers are Falling

The number of U.S. deaths rose to 2,447,900 people in 2005, up from 2,397,615 people in 2004.

The rise may be due to a mild flu season in 2004, which is believed to be responsible for the drop in deaths during that year, the report said.

However, while the number of U.S. deaths increased, the U.S. death rate actually reached an all-time low of less than 800 deaths (798.8) per 100,000 population in 2005.

Meanwhile, death rates from the three leading killers in the United States -- heart disease, cancer and stroke -- also fell. Specifically:

  • The age-adjusted death rate from heart disease was 210.3 deaths per 100,000 in 2005, down from 217 in 2004.

  • The death rate from cancer was 183.8 in 2005, down from 185.8 in 2004.

  • The death rate from stroke was 46.6 deaths in 2005, down from 50 in 2004.

These decreases are likely "due to better prevention efforts and medical advances in the treatments of these disease," according to Hsiang-Ching Kung, a survey statistician with NCHS and one of the report's authors.

"If death rates from certain leading causes of death continue to decline," Kung said, "we should continue to see improvements in life expectancy."

The 15 Leading Causes of Death in 2005

  1. Diseases of heart (heart disease)
  2. Malignant neoplasms (cancer)
  3. Cerebrovascular disease (stroke)
  4. Chronic lower respiratory diseases
  5. Accidents
  6. Diabetes mellitus
  7. Alzheimer's disease
  8. Influenza and pneumonia
  9. Nephritis, nephritic syndrome and
    nephrosis (kidney disease)
  10. Septicemia
  11. Intentional self-harm (suicide)
  12. Chronic liver disease and cirrhosis
  13. Hypertension
  14. Parkinson's disease
  15. Assault (homicide)

The report also found a slight increase in infant mortality rates, which rose to 6.89 per 1,000 live births in 2005, up from 6.79 in 2005. However, researchers say the increase is not statistically significant.

The top five causes of death among newborns in 2005 were:

  1. Congenital malformations

  2. Low birthweight

  3. Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)

  4. Maternal complications

  5. Cord and placental complications

What are the REAL Leading Causes of Death?

The NCHS report lists the diseases and accidents that caused the most deaths, however, the Journal of the American Medical Association published a study that uncovered the actual leading causes behind THOSE causes of death in the United States (based on 2000 data). They were:

  • Tobacco (435,000 deaths, 18.1 percent of total U.S. deaths)

  • Poor diet and physical inactivity (400,000 deaths, 16.6 percent)

  • Alcohol consumption (85,000 deaths, 3.5 percent)

  • Microbial agents (75,000)

  • Toxic agents (55,000)

  • Motor vehicle crashes (43,000)

  • Incidents involving firearms (29,000)

  • Sexual behaviors (20,000)

  • Illicit use of drugs (17,000)

Of course, we're all going to die at some point, but if you browse through the list above you see that your own, modifiable, behaviors play a large part in determining YOUR life expectancy.

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NCHS: Deaths: Preliminary Data for 2005

NCHS Press Release September 12, 2007

Journal of the American Medical Association 2004;291:1238-1245

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