Death rates from conditions such as heart disease and cancer appear to be declining, while those from others, such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease, have risen slightly.
The report, released by the government’s National Center for Health Statistics, is based on more than 2.4 million death certificates issued in 2003, the latest year for which figures are available. The number represents about 93% of all certificates.
The statistics revealed that life expectancy had increased by nearly four months from the 2002 figure of 77.3 years.
The gap between women and men narrowed slightly, from 5.4 years in 2002 to 5.3 years in 2003, continuing an equalizing trend that has been observed since 1979.
The report did not reveal the reasons for mortality changes, said Bob Anderson, chief of the center’s mortality statistics branch, who oversaw the study.