Americans live longer, get more diseases

Monday, October 22, 2001

Continuing a long trend, life expectancy in the United States has increased again with the release of the latest government statistics. An American born in 2000 has a life expectancy of 76.9 years, up from 76.7 years in 1999. And infant mortality has declined again, to 6.9 deaths for every 1,000 live births from 7.1. These are good statistics, of course, reflecting the effects of good health care and better nutrition during pregnancy, among other factors. But as life expectancy increases, so do the death rates for diseases that primarily affect older Americans. In particular, more people are becoming victims of Alzheimer's disease. And America's aging population continues to show the effects of less physical activity and increased obesity, which puts them at risk for heart disease and diabetes. As has been the case for quite some time, American longevity continues to benefit from medical advances even though the ailments of many of our oldest citizens continue to increase, having a significant effect on the quality of life.