- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 13, 2007

Life is looking a little more rosy for Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Our life expectancy has hit a new high of almost 78 years, according to new statistics released yesterday by the federal agency.

Researchers cited in the report two factors for increasing longevity since 1955, when the life expectancy was just under 70.

“This report highlights the continued reduction in deaths from three leading killers in the United Sates — heart disease, cancer and stroke — which is most likely due to better prevention efforts and medical advances in the treatments of these diseases,” said Hsiang-Ching Kung, a statistician and one of the report’s authors.

“If death rates from certain leading causes of death continue to decline, we should continue to see improvements in life expectancy,” Mr. Kung added.

The findings are based on mortality statistics and other health-related data from 2005.

Overall, there is a slight improvement in the life expectancy of blacks, which increased from 73.1 years in 2004 to 73.2 the following year. Among whites, the figure remained unchanged at 78.3 in the same time period.

The difference in life expectancy between males and females — women now live about five years longer than men — is the lowest since 1946. The difference has decreased an average of 37 days every year since 1980.

Death rates declined in four of the leading causes of death — heart disease, cancer, stroke and suicide. There have been increases in death because of respiratory disease, accidents, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, flu, pneumonia and high blood pressure.

Age-related deaths have dropped slightly for whites, blacks and Asians but risen among Hispanics.

Regionally, the highest annual death rates per 100,000 people were found in the District at 996. The numbers were 784 and 765, respectively, in Maryland and Virginia.

Though their incidents are few, the report also found increases in deaths because of other diseases. There were three deaths in 2004 from shigellosis — an intestinal infection common in the developing world — and nine in 2005. Death from whooping cough rose from 16 to 32 in the same time period. Deaths from HIV disease dropped from 13,063 to 12,456.

Other research may dull the CDC findings.

According to a global life expectancy analysis released last month by the University of Washington Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation, longevity in the U.S. still lags behind 41 other countries worldwide. Swaziland had the lowest life expectancy (34 years) and Andorra the highest (83.5 years).

“Something’s wrong here when one of the richest countries in the world, the one that spends the most on health care, is not able to keep up with other countries,” noted Dr. Christopher Murray, the institute’s director.

Among his criticisms: 45 million Americans without health insurance, obesity and racial disparities in overall health care.

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