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Blacks die earlier from homicide, heart disease
Life expectancy is the highest it has ever been for Americans, but whites still live longer than blacks.
July 18th, 2013
10:48 AM ET

Blacks die earlier from homicide, heart disease

Americans are living longer than ever before. But if you are an African-American in the United States, a new report shows your life, on average, will not be as long as your white neighbors’.

The report comes from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics.  Lead author Ken Kochanek says his agency has always run these kinds of numbers internally. The results, though, get a little lost in the larger report on overall mortality rates that goes out annually to the public. This year the agency wanted to highlight some of the important racial disparities in the data.

This particular report shows a deeply troubling trend, Kochanek said: Too many black men are the victims of homicides, and that is one of the main reasons black men, on average, don’t live as long as white men do.

The report

The study looked at life expectancy at birth between 1970 and 2010.  The National Center for Health Statistics collects this data directly from death certificates. By law, a death certificate is filed with every person who dies.  The certificates note cause of death and race.

This particular analysis compared life expectancy rates by race and gender. It also looked at the causes of death and how these causes influenced the difference in life expectancy between the black and white populations. It then sliced the numbers even further by comparing the causes of death and their influence on life expectancy between black and white males born in 2010, and black and white females born in 2010. The researchers did not look at socioeconomic status.

The results

Research shows that life expectancy at birth increased from 70.8 years in 1970 to 78.7 years in 2010 for the population overall – that’s an 11% increase.  Life expectancy in the United States has been gradually improving since 1900.  The 78.7 average was a new high.  In 2010 however, the life expectancy for the African-American population still fell short of the white population’s by 3.8 years. Studies have shown that white Americans have always lived longer on average than black Americans - at least for as long as the U.S. government has collected this data. 

Black men did fare the worst of all the groups they compared – with their life expectancy at 4.7 years lower than white men, who live on average to the age of 76.5.

The statisticians found that black men don’t live as long as white men primarily because of higher incidence rates of death from heart disease, homicide and cancer. It is the homicide issue that stands out most for Kochanek.

“The causes of death that account for these differences between the populations haven’t changed all that much,” Kochanek said. “Heart disease, diabetes, stroke – these differences always seem to be there. But what’s interesting in this particular report is just what a difference homicide plays ...  The difference between homicides for black and white men in particular is gigantic.”

“From a public health standpoint I’m sure the experts would say it’s especially worrying,” he said. “You would hope the (racial disparities) would be accounted for by natural causes. You can try and do prevention work to keep heart disease down or diabetes for instance. But when you see homicide as having such a big impact it’s like, ‘Wow, this is a much more complicated issue to fix.'”

White women still have the longest life expectancy at birth - 81 .3 years - followed by black women at 78 years.

This report is the first in a series that will take a closer look at causes of death. The CDC will continue to study other life expectancy issues with ethnic and racial populations in the United States.


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  8. mroffended

    could you be more racist? black kill each other because they have a lack of education because schools in the inner city are terrible compared to schools in affluent neighborhoods. with no education comes no money, with no money how does one survive? they are forced into tight situations where it's kill or be killed. yes the killing is dumb, but you really need to look at why black people kill each other and not produce a dumb stereotypical answer that you probably gathered from watching friday or BET. similarly, a lack of education/money leads to a bad diet. this is a fact. for one, if you ever venture into an inner city, please try to find a grocery store. in la city, the nearest grocery store is over 10 miles away, and if your poor with no car how do you get fresh food. they end up going to mcdonalds because you can buy 20 chicken nuggets for $5 when it cost a dollar to buy an apple at the nearest convenience store (regardless of how old it is). this is the simple version of life as an black american, please educate yourself before you make dumb comments.

    July 18, 2013 at 13:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Rebecca

    Black schools have less money... even so, they have enough to get a great education. If they choose. What is too often chosen is to create havoc in the school environment preventing others from accessing that education. No excuses on this one, they have buildings, books, and teachers. Enough with the bullcorn.

    July 18, 2013 at 14:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Skipfrmdc

    Nice to know there are still people who are willing to generalize a whole group due to the actions of a few. It's akin to labling all whites as serial killers, child rapists or nazi, white supremesists because of your history of genicidal, colonial actions (see american indians, african blacks, ect.) Your ignorance is showing

    July 18, 2013 at 14:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Jamie

    So absolutely true, but then they always look to blame everyone but themselves for their choices.

    July 18, 2013 at 17:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Huh?

    What do you mean by "a few?" Check out the homicide statistics of ANY major city...

    July 18, 2013 at 19:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. JaneWhite

    I have checked out the homicide statistics of all the major cities. Guess what, murder is still rare. Rare enough that they all make the papers.

    July 18, 2013 at 19:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Huh?

    But shouldn't it be non existant in a liberal enlightened world? Look at Chicago... guns illegal still many gun crimes most committed by AAs

    July 18, 2013 at 19:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. jmag

    Sorry...blacks created their problem. No sympathy here.

    July 18, 2013 at 21:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Michelle

    What about crappy rural schools?

    July 18, 2013 at 22:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. qqppyy

    Well, each community has its issues. For example, white kids have been responsible for ALL of the school shootings. Most mass murderers are white. Most public places that are shot-up randomly are done by white people, namely white men. It really appears that it is a MALE issue and not a black woman or white woman issue. It is foolish to attempt to dignify any murder but one can usually finger out why a black person committed a murder but white men leave us confounded and their victims are usually innocent. If a black child is shot everyday in the black community it is usually by a male, but white men will bring their numbers up to speed with a mass killing in a random place were those people never did or will know them. I say stop the killing and stop the finger pointing. We are looking foolish to the rest of the world.

    July 21, 2013 at 01:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. simple minded

    oh please you blame grocery stores for not being close enough please. Major cities put in bus routes for minorities the polling centers when you vote are all by housing units. Life is made convienient so convenient that most blacks dont want it to change they complain that its whites or major corporations then they say that major corporations arn't close enough to them. Grow a garden man move away from the city. Stop voting dmeocrat. Democrats give out these programs to everyone becuase it has been shown again and again that welfare programs create poverty people become dependant on them.

    July 22, 2013 at 05:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Huh?

    Agreed... kinda jmag... they r responsible but they listen to their leaders whom tell them it is all the Crakas fault... no independent thought here only woe is me...

    July 18, 2013 at 21:42 | Report abuse | Reply
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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.