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U.S. life expectancy ticked up in 2022: CDC


Increase was a turnaround from previous years, but infant deaths remained high

miniature elderly people walking on graph ©Hyejin


U.S. life expectancy increased by 1.1 years between 2021 and 2022, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a turnaround from the previous two years during which life expectancy had fallen.

A March 2024 data brief the National Center for Health Statistics, an arm of the CDC, reported that life expectancy at birth for the nation’s total population increased from 76.4 to 77.5 years. Life expectancy for males went from 73.5 to 74.8 years, while for females the rise was from 79.3 to 80.2 years.

The overall age-adjusted death rate during the period decreased by 9.2%, from 879.7 to 798.8 deaths per 100,000 population.

The increase contrasts with trends seen in earlier years. Overall life expectancy fell by 0.6 years, from 77.0 to 76.4, between 2020 and 2021. From 2019 to 2020 the decline was 1.8 years, so that even with the most recent increase life expectancy remains below pre-pandemic levels.

The 10 leading causes of death remained the same in 2021 and 2022. Heart disease and cancer topped the list in both years, although rates fell for both. The age-adjusted death rate for heart disease in 2022 was 173.8 per 100,000 population, a 3.8% decrease from the 167.2 per 100,000 seen in 2021. For cancer the decrease was about 3%, from 146.6 to 142.3 per 100,000.

The biggest decrease among the top 10 was in deaths from COVID-19. These fell from 104.1 to 44.5 per 100,000 population, a decline of more than 57%. The only increase on the list was in kidney disease, which ticked up from 13.6 to 13.8 per 100,000.

Offsetting the overall positive news was an increase in infant mortality, which grew by 3.1% from 543.6 to 560.4 deaths per 100,000 live births from 2021 to 2022. The most common cause of infant death, congenital malformations, stayed the same at 108.2 per 100,000 live births. But increases occurred in six of the 10 leading causes of infant deaths.

Separately, the CDC reported that the death rate from drug overdoses remained the same from 2021 to 2022, at 32.6 deaths per 100,000 population. In both years the rates were highest for adults ages 35-44, at 62.0 and 63.1 deaths per 100,000, respectively. And while rates were lowest for adults age 65 and older, the 10% increase—from 12.0 to 13.2 deaths per 100,000—was the largest percentage increase in any age cohort.


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