Life Expectancy Gap Between Blacks, Whites Narrowing, Partly Because of Declining Death Rates From Various Diseases, Study Finds
While the life expectancy of whites continues to be longer than it is for blacks, the gap has narrowed in the past 10 years in part because of declining death rates from AIDS-related complications, homicide, accidental injury and other factors, according to a report in the March 21 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, HealthDay/Washington Post reports. For the report, co-author John Lynch of the Department of Epidemiology, Biostatistics and Occupational Health at McGill University, used data from the U.S. National Vital Statistics System to examine black and white life expectancy from 1983 to 2003 (Reinberg, HealthDay/Washington Post, 3/16). In 2003, the average life expectancy for blacks was 72.7 years, compared with 78 years for whites -- a historic high for both races. The life expectancy gap between blacks and whites reached a historic low of 5.3 years in 2003, down from 7.1 years in 1993, according to the data (Dunham, Reuters/Boston Globe, 3/17). The life expectancy gap in 2003 was 4.5 years for women and 6.3 for men, Lynch said. He noted that the black-white life expectancy gap has declined by 18% for women and by 25% for men. According to Lynch, improvements in cardiovascular disease can be attributed to 70% to 80% of the decline among women. Lower death rates from diabetes and stroke, as well as lower infant mortality, also contributed to the black-white life expectancy gap narrowing for women, the report found. Among black men, mortality decreased in terms of homicide, AIDS-related complications and unintentional injuries, according to the report. Heart disease was the largest contributor to the life expectancy gap for men in 2003, followed by homicide, AIDS-related complications and infant mortality (HealthDay/Washington Post, 3/16).
Researchers say that the overall life expectancy gap "remains substantial," Bloomberg/Chicago Sun-Times reports (Bloomberg/Chicago Sun-Times, 3/17). Co-author Sam Harper of McGill University said the study suggested a focus on cardiovascular disease (Reuters/Boston Globe, 3/17). Lynch said, "The good news is that the gap has declined. That should give us some confidence that things can change. But the bad news is that it remains large, but we know what we need to work on." He suggested focusing on improving access and quality of care for blacks, particularly in terms of heart disease among men (HealthDay/Washington Post, 3/17).
The study is available online.