Young Deaths Down, Boosting Life Expectancy

Murders and suicides fell last year among the nation’s youth, boosting the average life expectancy of Americans to a new high of 76, the government said Thursday.

“If you can save a life at a younger age, you contribute to life expectancy because you have young people living longer,” said Kimberley Peters of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Homicide caused 8.4 deaths per 100,000 people in 1996, down 10.6 percent from a rate of 9.4 deaths the year before, the CDC said. Among 5- to 14-year-olds, the death rate fell 13.3 percent.

Suicides also dropped. Among 15- to 24-year-olds, the rate fell 9 percent last year to 12.1 deaths per 100,000, from 13.3 deaths per 100,000 in 1995.

These rates, combined with the declining death rate from AIDS among 25- to 44-year-olds announced earlier this year, helped to boost the average life expectancy from the previous high of 75.8 years to 76.1.

The AIDS death rate in 1996 fell to 11.6 deaths per 100,000 people, down 26 percent.

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