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Carolyn Hax

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Posted at 11:30 AM ET, 03/16/2011

Death rate down, life expectancy up in U.S.

With everything that’s going on in the world today, it may feel like we’re all doomed sometimes. But a new federal report out Wednesday may help put things into perspective. It’s got some good news for a change.

The new report, from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention National Center for Health Statistics, analyzed data collected from 96 percent of death certificates from all 50 states and the District of Columbia in 2009.

Among the findings:

--The death rate for the U.S. population fell for the 10th straight year, hitting an all-time low of 741 deaths per 100,000 people, a 2.3 percent drop from the 2008 rate of 758.7. Overall, there were 2,436,682 deaths in the country in 2009, down from 2,473,018 in 2008.

--Death rates fell significantly for 10 of the 15 leading causes of death in 2009. Heart disease deaths fell 3.7 percent. Cancer deaths fell 1.1 percent. Stroke deaths fell 4.2 percent. Influenza and pneumonia deaths fell 4.7 percent. Deaths from chronic respiratory disease, accidents, Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes all fell 4.1 percent. Deaths from bloodstream infections, known as septicemia, fell 1.8 percent. And homicide deaths fell 6.8 percent.

--Because of the drop in deaths from bloodstream infections, suicide surpassed septicemia to become the 10th leading cause of death. The number of suicides increased from 35,933 in 2008 to 36,547 in 2009. Deaths from septicemia fell from 35,961 to 35,587.

--Life expectancy increased from 78 years in 2008 to 78.2 years in 2009. It was up .2 years for men, hitting 75.7 years, and inched up .1 years for women, hitting 80.6 years. Life expectancy for whites overall increased .2 years while life expectancy for black males and black females remained unchanged at 70.9 and 77.4 respectively. The gap in life expectancy between whites and blacks was 4.3 years, a .2 increase.

--The preliminary infant mortality rate hit a record low of 6.42 infant deaths per 1,000 life births, a 2.6 percent decline from 2008.

By  |  11:30 AM ET, 03/16/2011

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