March 17, 2011 in Nation/World

U.S. life expectancy at new high

Associated Press

ATLANTA – U.S. life expectancy has hit another all-time high, rising above 78 years.

The estimate of 78 years and 2 months is for a baby born in 2009, and comes from a preliminary report released Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

About 2.4 million people died in the United States in 2009 – roughly 36,000 fewer deaths than the year before.

Deaths were down for a range of causes, from heart disease to homicide, so experts don’t believe there’s one simple explanation for the increase in life expectancy. Better medical treatment, vaccination campaigns and public health measures against smoking are believed to be having an impact.

U.S. life expectancy has been generally increasing since at least the 1940s, though some years it held steady and a few times it temporarily dipped.

Previously, the CDC said a one-month dip occurred in 2008 to 77 years and 11 months. But in Wednesday’s report, the agency corrected that to 78 years, attributing the glitch to a computer programming error.

More good news from the new report: The infant mortality rate hit a record low of 6.42 deaths per 1,000 live births, a drop of nearly 3 percent from 2008.

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