The National Center for Health Statistics this month released its latest report on U.S. life expectancy and mortality, showing progress in some areas but persistent disparities among ethnic and racial groups, gender, and geographic regions.
Life expectancy at birth for the overall U.S. population was 78.7 years in 2011 — unchanged from 2010. Across all races and ethnicities, life expectancy for women (81.1) exceeded that for men (76.3) by nearly five years.
Among racial and ethnic groups, Hispanics showed the highest life expectancy (81.4), followed by non-Hispanic whites (78.8) and non-Hispanic blacks (74.8).
The overall age-adjusted mortality rate in 2011 was 740.6 deaths per 100,000 population — and all-time low and 0.9% lower than in 2010.
When compared with the year 2000, 2011 mortality rates have declined across all population groups, whether defined by gender or race/ethnicity. The largest decreases occurred among males, with the greatest mortality reduction (22.6%) among non-Hispanic black males.
Mortality Rates by State
Mortality rates across the 50 states and the District of Columbia vary dramatically, from a low of 584.8 deaths per 100,000 population in Hawaii, to a high of 956.2 deaths per 100,000 population in Mississippi.
Generally speaking, states in the southeast had higher mortality rates than states in other regions.
Leading Causes of Death
In 2011, five major causes of death (heart disease, cancer, chronic lower respiratory diseases, stroke, and accidents) accounted for 62% of all deaths in the United States; however, causes are distributed differently across different age groups.
For those aged 1–24 years, external causes far outweigh chronic conditions, with accidents, homicide, and suicide representing 64% of all deaths. At the other end of the age spectrum the situation is reversed, with chronic conditions outpacing external causes among those 65 and older.
The infant mortality rate is the ratio of infant deaths (prior to the first birthday) to live births in a given year, and generally regarded as an indicator of the overall health of a population.
The preliminary infant mortality for 2011 was 6.05 infant deaths per 1,000 live births — not significantly different from the 2010 rate of 6.15 deaths per 1,000 live births.
When viewed over time, however, a clear trend emerges — between 1990 and 2011, infant mortality in the U.S. dropped 34%.