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In America, life spans are growing across the board

The average American lifespan is increasing across groups, according to data from the National Center for Health Statistics' vital statistics system.

Americans born in 2009 can expect an average lifespan of 78.5 years, according to the new data, just released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That's up from 78.1 years for those who were born in 2008.

Life expectancy increased for males (from 75.6 to 76 years) and females (80.6 to 80.9 years). It also increased across races: among those who are white (78.5 to 78.8 years), black (74 to 74.5 years), Hispanic (81.0 to 81.2 years), non-Hispanic white (78.4 to 78.7 years) and non-Hispanic black (73.8 to 74.2).

“To the extent that we all want a bounty of years in life, this report conveys encouraging news,” Dr. David Katz, director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center, told HealthDay. “Life expectancy at birth in the U.S. is rising for all groups.”

Katz, who was not involved in the report, noted “some dark clouds swirling around the silver linings of data. Disparities in life expectancy persist, both between women and men, and between whites and blacks,” he said.

The CDC also predicts future longevity based on specific ages already attained. The report noted that the increase in 2009's life expectancy over that in 2008 was due to decreased deaths from heart disease, cancer, unintentional injuries, stroke and chronic lower respiratory illnesses. Those increases were “slightly offset” by more deaths from chronic liver disease and suicide.

In 2009, a person who lived to age 65 could expect to live an additional 19.1 years, on average, to age 84.1. A person age 85 could expect to live an additional 6.6 years to age 91.6. Someone who lived to age 100 could expect another 2.3 years on average, the agency reported.

Among males, decreases in mortality from heart disease, unintentional injuries, cancer, chronic lower respiratory diseases and homicide led to longer life expectancy. Women gained increased longevity projections from decreases in death from heart disease, stroke, cancer, Alzheimer's disease and chronic lower respiratory disease.

The gap closed ever so slightly between men and women, according to the report. In 2008, women had a five-year longevity advantage over men, which dropped to 4.9 years in 2009. Between 1900 and 1975, the difference in life expectancy rose from 2 years to 7.8 years, attributed largely to more men dying from ischemic heart disease and lung cancer, the vital statistics report said. Between 1979 and 2007, the difference bobbled slightly up and down before narrowing to 5 years. “The general decline in the sex difference since 1979 reflects proportionately greater increases in lung cancer mortality for women than for men and proportionately larger decreases in heart disease mortality among men,” the report said.

RedOrbit's On Science segment has a video on the increase in life span. It notes that the report was based on final mortality statistics from 2009, population estimates taken from the 2000 Census and 2009 Medicare data on people ages 66 to 99.

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