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The new data on U.S. life expectancy -- and what can be made of it

August 20, 2009 |  6:01 am

We may not be getting better, but we are getting older. U.S. life expectancy has reached a whopping 78 (77.9 to be precise) years, says a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That's up from a less whopping 78 (77.7 to be equally precise) the year before.

The numbers, released Wednesday, are based on death certificates.

Here's the full report. And here are the highlights as listed in the CDC news release.

Among them:

  • The life expectancy of black men reached 70 years -- for the first time.
  • Heart disease and cancer are responsible for half of our deaths.

As for the getting better part, that's up to the individual. The report didn't consider it from a population standpoint.

Now for some less-than-traditional views of this news...

From the blog Serious Medicine Strategy, we have this:

Are we overweight, too many of us? Yes. Do many or most of us not get enough exercise? Yes. But are we still doing better? Yes. So let's be careful about pulling apart the system we have.

From EconBlog Review:

So far, so good. Any change in the system MUST continue the health trends described by the CDC. This will likely NOT occur by insuring more people but spending no more money.

And from Speculist:

To look at death certificates in the US in 2007 and use the data to imply that you know anything useful about the life expectancy for anyone born in the US in 2007 is a really strained analysis.

-- Tami Dennis