WEDNESDAY, March 16 (HealthDay News) -- The death rate in the United States reached an all-time low in 2009, the 10th straight year of decline, dropping 2.3 percent from 2008, federal health officials report.
"There is basically good news," said lead author Kenneth Kochanek, a statistician at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics.
"Ten of the major causes of death decreased significantly," he said. "You have life expectancy going up, you have infant mortality going down," he added.
Kochanek cautioned that this is preliminary data, and the CDC has not looked at the reasons for these trends. The final data, which should be available this summer, may shed some light on the findings, he noted.
Behavioral changes, particularly the decline in smoking, are partly responsible for the improvements, one expert says.
The report shows a drop from 758.7 deaths per 100,000 people in 2008 to 741 per 100,000 people in 2009. In all, 2,436,682 deaths were reported in 2009.
Overall U.S. life expectancy rose slightly from 78 years to 78.2 years between 2008 and 2009. Men's life expectancy increased to 75.7 years and women's to 80.6 years, the researchers found.
However, life expectancy for blacks remained unchanged -- 70.9 years for men and 77.4 years for women. The disparity between whites and blacks is now 4.3 years, representing a 0.2 percent increase from 2008 to 2009, the report found.
"We are not really sure why life expectancy did not go up for blacks," Kochanek said. "That's one of those things we have to look at with the final data."
Deaths fell in 10 of the 15 leading causes of death. Heart disease dropped 3.7 percent, cancer fell 1.1 percent, and stroke declined 4.2 percent. Deaths from Alzheimer's disease, diabetes, chronic lower respiratory diseases and accidents all declined 4.1 percent.
All rights reserved