Racial Gap in Life Expectancy Down From 2003 to 2008

Gap in life expectancy between blacks and whites decreased by about one year for men and women

WEDNESDAY, June 6 (HealthDay News) -- From 2003 to 2008, the gap in life expectancy between non-Hispanic blacks and whites in the United States decreased by about one year for both men and women, according to a research letter published in the June 6 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Sam Harper, Ph.D., from McGill University in Montreal, and colleagues extracted data on deaths and population from the U.S. National Vital Statistics System by age and cause of death for non-Hispanic blacks and whites in 2003 and 2008.

The researchers found that, between 2003 and 2008, life expectancy at birth increased among both sexes and races: 75.3 to 76.2 years among non-Hispanic white men; 68.8 to 70.8 years among non-Hispanic black men; 80.3 to 81.2 years among non-Hispanic white women; and 75.7 to 77.5 years among non-Hispanic black women. These changes reduced the racial gap from 6.5 to 5.4 years among men, and from 4.6 to 3.7 years among women. Among men, the leading contributors to the gap in 2008 were heart disease (22 percent) and homicide (19 percent), while heart disease (29 percent) and diabetes (11 percent) were the leading contributors among women. The leading contributors to the 1.1-year decrease in the racial gap since 2003 were unintentional injuries (18 percent of the decrease), HIV, and heart disease for men. Heart disease (29 percent), unintentional injuries, HIV, diabetes, and stroke were the main contributors to the decrease among women.

"These racial inequalities among men and women in 2008 are the lowest ever recorded in the United States," the authors write.

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