Black Americans’ life expectancy improves but is still four years below that of whites

Black Americans have made gains in life expectancy but still can only expect to live four years less than whites, researchers said Tuesday.

In the past two decades, the gap in death rates between blacks and whites has narrowed dramatically, from 33 percent in 1999 to 16 percent in 2015, said the report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The death rate for blacks fell 25 percent in that time period.

Despite these advances, younger black men still tend to die far younger than whites, according to the CDC report, describing this trend as a “concern.”

“Blacks in their 20s, 30s, and 40s are more likely to live with or die from conditions that typically occur at older ages in whites, including heart disease, stroke, and diabetes,” said a CDC statement.

The CDC report found that blacks ages 35 to 64 are 50 percent more likely to have high blood pressure than whites.

It also said blacks ages 18 to 49 are two times more likely to die from heart disease.

Cancer was far more often a killer among blacks, who “have the highest death rate for all cancers combined compared with whites,” said the report.

Violence contributed to the gap, with blacks ages 18 to 34 nine times more likely than whites of the same age to die from homicide.

“Notably, the death rates for homicide among blacks did not change over the 17 years of the study,” said the report.

Advances have been made in treating heart disease, and the effect was apparent, particularly among older people.

“The racial death rate gap closed completely for deaths from heart disease and for all causes of death among those 65 years and older,” said the report.

Deaths from HIV have dropped dramatically since 1999, falling 80 percent among blacks in the age range of 18 to 49.

Still, blacks are seven to nine times more likely to die from HIV than whites, said the report.

“We have seen some remarkable improvements in death rates for the black population in these past 17 years,” said Leandris Liburd, associate director of CDC’s Office of Minority Health and Health Equity. “Important gaps are narrowing due to improvements in the health of the black population overall. However, we still have a long way to go.”

In the only major developed country lacking national health care for all, the factors that contribute to the gap in life expectancy include poverty, lower educational attainment and home ownership among blacks.

“These risk factors may limit blacks’ access to prevention and treatment of disease,” said the report.

The data for the study came from the U.S. Census Bureau, the National Vital Statistics System and the CDC’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System.


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