Data released this month by the Centers for Disease Control shows that average U.S life expectancy at birth has reached an all-time high of 77.9 years. The latest information from the National Center for Health Statistics shows that, from 2006 to 2007 average life expectancy increased by more than two months.
While life expectancy has steadily increased across the U.S. population—growing from 76.5 years in 1997 to 77.9 years a decade later—the benefits are not equally distributed by gender or race. On average, women still have a longer life-expectancy than men—80.4 years compared with 75.3 years, and white women continue to have the longest average life expectancy of any group, at 80.7 years, though black women follow closely behind with a life expectancy of 77.0 years. Though, generally speaking white people still tend to have higher life-expectancies than blacks—4.6 years longer, according to this 2007 data—that gap has narrowed by more than a third since the late 1960s.
The improvements in life expectancy are largely due to improvements in reducing and treating heart disease, stroke, cancer, chronic lower respiratory diseases, the researchers say. Another good sign is that the death rate—the age-adjusted, average number of deaths per 100,000 people—has dropped by 43% since 1960, to a record low of 760.3 in 2007. But, even amid this progress, vast geographical discrepancies remain—with people in southern states still facing higher death rates than those living in other parts of the country.