NPR logo Outlook For Americans' Longevity Dips, As Deaths Of The Most Elderly Rise

Your Health

Outlook For Americans' Longevity Dips, As Deaths Of The Most Elderly Rise

Death rates declined for most Americans in the most recent analysis done by the government.

Yet how long newborns can expect to live slipped a tiny bit. The reason? An increase in deaths among the oldest of old people affected the estimates for the future.

People born in 2008 can expect to live 77.8 years, a decline of a little more than a month from 77.9 years in 2007, according to a report just released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Little boys born in 2008 can expect to live to be 75.3 and little girls born then can look forward to an 80.3 year lifespan.

To come up with the figures, CDC statisticians combed death certificate from 2008, the most recent year that could be analyzed. The slight decline in life expectancy was tied to an increase in deaths for people 85 in older between 2007 and 2008.

Mortality rates fell for a bunch of common conditions, including heart disease, accidents and cancer. But the rates of death increased a lot for some other illnesses, including Alzheimer's disease, influenza and pneumonia and kidney disease.

Stroke, which for 50 years had been No. 3 on the list of leading killers, slipped to No. 4. Now the top three killers in order are heart disease, cancer and chronic lower respiratory disease, including emphysema and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Death rates declined for blacks and quite a bit for Hispanic males. In fact, a few months back CDC statisticians found Hispanics born recently are living longer than whites and blacks, though aren't exactly sure why that is.