Booster Shots

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Life expectancy reaches new high

December 16, 2009 |  8:46 am

The average American lives 77 years and 11 months -- the highest life expectancy in history, according to statistics released today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Since 2000, life expectancy has increased by about 1.1 years. White women live the longest, an average of 80-and-a-half years.

The data, from 2007, show continued improvements in life expectancy for all Americans, although women are faring better than men, and whites fare better than other racial groups. The gap between whites and blacks declined by 35% between 1989 and 2007. But the race differential is still 4.6 years.

The improvements are largely due to medical advances in the treatment of heart disease, cancer, stroke and lower respiratory disease, said the author of the report, from the National Center for Health Statistics. Some health experts have warned that the obesity epidemic, however, may begin to undermine the trend in a longer life expectancy.

Among states, Hawaii has the lowest death rate, while West Virginia has the highest.


-- Shari Roan

Chart: Percentage of deaths caused by common maladies from 1980 to 2005.  Credit: National Center for Health Statistics