April 23, 2006

Suddenly, something is keeping us alive.

Did you notice the stunning drop in the death rate? The National Center for Health Statistics reports that there was a 2 percent decrease in the death rate in the United States last year. 50,000 fewer people died last year than the year before.
U.S. deaths ordinarily rise slightly each year. The last decline in annual deaths occurred in 1997, a modest drop of 445 deaths from 1996, Minino said.

The number of deaths has not dropped this steeply since 1938, when there were about 69,000 fewer than in 1937. A drop in 1944 came close - about 48,000 fewer deaths than the previous year....

Heart disease continues to be the leading cause of death, accounting for 27 percent of the nation's deaths in 2004. Cancer was second, at about 23 percent, and strokes were third, at 6 percent.

The good news: The age-adjusted death rate for all three killers dropped. The heart disease rate declined more than 6 percent, the cancer rate about 3 percent, and the stroke rate about 6.5 percent.
And yet we've gotten so fat! Or is that layer of blubber -- like the embrace of a loving grandmother -- cushioning us as we fall through life.


SippicanCottage said...

My wife and I attended a performance of the McCourt brother's revue: "A Couple of Blaguards" last evening.

Their best line:

Don't worry, doctor, we come from a long line of dead people.

Mark Daniels said...

Um...the ratio of deaths to births is still right around 1:1.

Mark Daniels

RSwan said...

It is all Bush's fault ;)

ignacio said...

Maybe Americans are not quite so obese as they say.

Ann Althouse said...

Mark: "Um...the ratio of deaths to births is still right around 1:1."

No it isn't. Whatever the current population of the world is is the number by which births exceed deaths. Not until the human race is extinct will the ration be 1 to 1.

Maxine Weiss said...


When you are unhappy, of course life seems interminably long.

Happiness is a right.

Peace, Maxine

downtownlad said...

Most of this rise is in the black community.

I wonder how this has to do with better HIV treatment?

Brian O'Connell said...

Whoops- people are confusing rates and ratios and absolute numbers.

The death rate is the ratio of people who die (usually in a year) vs the people who were alive (that same year). It's got nothing to do with the birth rate, directly. It's not the same as the ratio between births and deaths (which is near 1, but lately has been bigger- hence the population increase we've been seeing the last several centuries).

And the death rate for any given year is not affected by the number of people who were ever alive.

Pancho said...

I blame this on global warming and/or GW Bush. More live people..more customers available for buying oil. Odd timing that we invaded Iraq just about the time we have more live people.

Marghlar said...

Mark: "Um...the ratio of deaths to births is still right around 1:1."

No it isn't. Whatever the current population of the world is is the number by which births exceed deaths. Not until the human race is extinct will the ration be 1 to 1.

Actually Ann, I think that is wrong. Let's say we have 20 people alive. Each year, one person is born and one person dies. Ratio of births:deaths is 1:1.

Year 1: Start with 20; one birth; one death; still 20.
Year 2: Repeat. Still 20 people.

Stretch that out indefinitely -- in a million years, there would still be twenty people, I think. Same logic should apply to any number of people.

Ann Althouse said...

Brian: I think Mark was making the philosophical point, that everyone who is born dies, not mixing anything up. I was responding on that level.

Marghlar said...

Oh, I get it Ann. You were doing total historical births to deaths; we were assuming you meant per year (or pick your time period).

Kind of a creepy way to look at it, I'd say.

Ann Althouse said...

"Kind of a creepy way to look at it..."

A specialty of mine.

PatCA said...

Our life expectancy beats that of Britain. Could be our cruel, unequal health system is better than their free and inadequate health system.


Marghlar said...

PatCA: The CIA disagrees with you.

US Life Expectancy: 77.85 years

UK Life Expectancy: 78.54 years

Cuba Life Expectancy: 77.41 years

France: 79.73 years

Iceland: 80.31 years

Sweden: 80.51 years

So, according to the CIA, we are a tad behind Britain, and barely ahead of a dirt-poor, repressive dictatorship. We don't seem to be competing at all well with some of those dirty European socialists on this measure.

Now, you could say (and I might agree) that it is unclear how much of these differences is attributable to the for-profit/non-profit/govt-funded health system issue. But clearly, these figures do not, by themselves, provide a huge basis for optimism about the US health care system.