Death rates have been falling, according to a recent government report. Americans seem to be living longer and healthier lives, believed to be due to better medical management of chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes. The newest life expectancy rate is reported to hit a record high, which is great news for Americans.
The data used to compile the report was taken from death certificates up to 2012. According to the research, women still fare better than men; with life expectancy rates for women being 81.2 years and for men being 76.4 years. Jiaquan Xu, the lead author and medical doctor behind the report, thinks that behavior differences between the sexes may contribute to the variance. He stated that men generally tend to take on higher risk activities, like scuba diving and climbing, which may lead to the lower life expectancy rate.
He also stated that he believed the overall health of the U.S. population is improving. He noted that the two greatest causes of death, heart disease and cancer, have been steadily declining in rates since 1999. These two alone account for 46.5 percent of all reported deaths.
African-American males still have the highest death rates among all ethnic groups. Heart disease, hypertension, and homicide are believed to be the largest contributing factors for African-American males. African-American women continue to have death rates higher than Caucasian women. For Hispanics, the rates continue to remain the same as they were in 2011, which are still lower than those of their white and black counterparts.
The mortality rate for infants significantly decreased to a historic low from 2011 to 2012. The main reasons for 69.8 percent of deaths among infants still remain the same: low birth weight, maternal complications, unintentional injuries, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), complications involving the cord or placenta, newborn respiratory distress and circulatory disease. The most notable difference however, is the decrease in the SIDS rate, which decreased 12 percent.
Nearly every leading cause of death either remained steady or fell according to the report, except for one. The suicide rate has been steadily increasing since the year 2000 to its highest point in the last 25 years. Robert Anderson, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention branch that released the report, stated that there was no apparent reason yet for the escalation.
Some experts believe economic factors may be involved with the increase in suicide rates. Others suggest prescription drug sales and abuse in the last 10 years have led to these numbers increasing. Solveig Cunningham, an Emory University researcher, believes that perhaps we are doing a poor job at managing mental health, and thereby creating devastating results like the increase in rates of suicide.
Despite the one area concerning suicide rates, the report reveals that advances in medicine are making a difference to help people live longer and healthier. Americans can still celebrate the great news that death rates are falling. This means more time spent with family and friends, and the opportunity to live longer, productive lives.
By Valerie Bordeau
Photo by: Tauno Tõhk- Flickr