Bloomberg News

U.S. Life Expectancy Climbs as Homicide, Cancer Deaths Decline

January 12, 2012

Jan. 11 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. life expectancy climbed to a new high in 2010 as fewer people died from heart disease and cancer, and homicide was no longer among the 15 leading causes of death, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

Homicides, which fell 3.6 percent in 2010, dropped from the CDC’s list of leading causes of death and other vital U.S. statistics for the first time in 45 years, according to preliminary data released today by the agency. Life expectancy expanded to about 78.7 years.

The homicide rate in 2010 was “the lowest it’s been since 1962,” Sherry Murphy, the report’s lead author, said today in a telephone interview. Assault fell off the CDC’s list of the top 15 causes of death for the first time since 1965 as homicides dropped to 5.3 cases for every 100,000 people.

Pneumonitis, an inflammation of the lungs caused by airborne irritants, chemotherapy or radiation therapy, replaced homicide as the 15th biggest cause of death in 2010, according to the report. While heart disease and cancer remained the top two leading killers, accounting for 47 percent of fatalities, deaths from heart disease declined 2.4 percent to 179 per 100,000 people, while cancer-related deaths dropped 0.6 percent to 173 per 100,000, according to the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics.

Almost 2.46 million people died in the U.S. in 2010, a 1.2 percent increase from the previous year, according to data compiled from death certificates provided by all 50 states, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories. Children born in 2010 can expect to live 37 days longer than those who entered the world just a year earlier, the CDC said.

Flu, Strokes

The national mortality rate, calculated according to 2010 census data, declined to a record low of 746.2 deaths for every 100,000 people, from 749.6 in 2009.

In addition to declines for heart disease and cancer, death rates dropped for five other leading causes of death. Influenza and pneumonia-related fatalities dropped by a combined 8.5 percent, while deaths from blood infections dropped 3.6 percent. Fatal respiratory diseases, strokes and accidents also declined.

Mortality rates increased for five leading causes of death, including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

Deaths from Alzheimer’s disease rose 3.3 percent in 2010 to 25 fatalities per 100,000 people, while Parkinson’s-related mortality increased 4.6 percent to 7 deaths for every 100,000 people, according to the report. Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s retained their rankings from the previous year as the nation’s 6th and 14th leading causes of death.

Suicide also kept its spot as the 10th leading cause of death in 2010, as the number of Americans who took their own lives rose 2.4 percent to 37,793 from 36,909 in 2009.

While the CDC had previously reported that there were 36,547 suicides in the U.S. in 2009, and 741 deaths for every 100,000 people, the agency revised its 2009 mortality rates in today’s report based on population data from the 2010 census.

--Editor: Romaine Bostick, Adriel Bettelheim

To contact the reporter on this story: Molly Peterson in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Adriel Bettelheim at

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