U.S. Life Expectancy Increases

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Defying the doom-and-gloom-sayers, Americans are living longer and healthier each year, according to data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. According to the report, a product of the CDC's National Center for Health and Statistics, a child born in 2005 in the U.S. can expect to live 78 years -- the highest life expectancy to date. Life expectancy was based on age at death for 99% of deaths recorded in 2005 in the U.S.

This increase in life expectancy is nothing new -- the data show that life expectancy has been climbing for some time now. For instance, in 1995 the predicted life expectancy was 75.8 years, and in 1955 it was just under 70 years. Currently, the three leading killers in the U.S. are heart disease, cancer, and stroke. The CDC statistics note a drop in the death rate for all three. The lowered death rates can most likely be attributed to better preventive care, better treatment options, and earlier diagnoses for patients. (On the other hand, infant mortality rates were shown to be slightly higher in 2005 than in 2004, rising from 6.79 per 1,000 live births to 6.89, but this rise is not considered statistically significant.)

We at ACSH are happy to hear that U.S. life expectancy continues to climb upwards. However, it is important to note that other public health threats, though not considered among the top three killers, are on the rise and work against further increasing life expectancy. Examples include the nation's rising obesity rate and the increasing toll of Alzheimer's disease, commensurate with the increasing number of senior citizens in our population.

We hope people will use sound science when trying to prioritize threats to health instead of believing unfounded health scares. ACSH encourages everyone to take proper medication, exercise, eat a balanced diet, wear seat belts, get recommended vaccinations, and refrain from smoking. If we do these things, our country's life expectancy will continue to climb.

Krystal Wilson is a research intern at the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH.org, HealthFactsAndFears.com).