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Americans can expect to live longer than ever before, CDC data show

Senior citizens
The average life expectancy at birth in the U.S. reached a new high in 2012, at 78.8 years, according to new data from the CDC.
(John Raoux / Associated Press)

Americans are living longer than ever before, new government data show.

A typical toddler born in 2012 can expect to live 78.8 years -- a new record, according to a report published Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s 36.5 days longer than in 2011.

Adults who were 65 in 2012 could expect to live an additional 19.3 years, on average, the report said. That’s also 36.5 days longer than in 2011.

Young or old, females can plan on outliving males. At birth, the average girl has a life expectancy of 81.2 years, 4.8 years longer than the average boy. A typical woman who makes it to age 65 can anticipate living an additional 20.5 years to the age of 85.5, 2.6 years longer than a typical man who celebrates his 65th birthday.

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These gains in life expectancy are the result of small but steady decreases in Americans’ age-adjusted death rate (a statistic that controls for the age distribution of the population as a whole). Black women saw the biggest decrease, with their age-adjusted death rate falling 2.3% between 2011 and 2012. The rate also fell 1.2% for white men and 1.1% for white women and black men, while holding steady for Latino men and women.

The overall rates fell because Americans were less likely to succumb to eight of the 10 leading causes of death, the report said. Heart disease, the top killer of Americans, became less lethal, with a 1.8% decline in its age-adjusted death rate between 2011 and 2012. For cancer, the No. 2 cause of death, the age-adjusted mortality rate fell by 1.5%. 

Cancer and heart disease account for nearly two-thirds of the deaths attributed to the 10 leading causes of death. Of the remaining eight, the age-adjusted death rate fell for six (chronic lower respiratory disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, influenza/pneumonia and kidney disease), held steady for one (unintentional injuries), and rose for one (suicide).

Infant mortality also fell in 2012 compared with 2011, the data show. In 2012, 597.8 out of every 100,000 babies died before reaching their first birthday. Much of that improvement was due to a 12% decrease in the mortality rate for sudden infant death syndrome.

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The report authors, from the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics, note that though the year-to-year changes may seem small, they add up over time. Between 2000 and 2012, the overall age-adjusted death rate fell by 15.7%, according to the report. 

For more news about Americans’ health, follow me on Twitter @LATkarenkaplan and “like” Los Angeles Times Science & Health on Facebook


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