Life expectancy rises in U.S., but AIDS, violence hit young

WASHINGTON — WASHINGTON -- The life expectancy of Americans has gone up another notch and infant mortality has declined, government statisticians revealed yesterday, but deaths among young people from AIDS and violence continue to mount.

The annual report of the National Center for Health Statistics showed that in 1989 fatalities for 10 of the 15 leading causes of death declined, when the numbers were adjusted to eliminate the effect of the aging of the population.


The average baby born in 1989 could expect to live 75.3 years, a record high, and the mortality of infants declined to 9.8 deaths per 1,000 live births, a record low.

However, Dr. Marian MacDorman, a mortality analyst at the government center, said death certificates showed acquired immune deficiency syndrome and violence hitting hard at Americans in their productive years. "Death rates were down for almost all age groups," she said. However, fatalities among people from 25 to 44 were up, primarily because of a 31 percent increase in AIDS deaths from 1988 to 1989 and a slight increase in homicides.


Dr. MacDorman said the figures also show that a "health gap" between blacks and whites is growing. "Life expectancy increased for whites but remained the same for blacks," she said. Similarly, the improvements in infant mortality statistics reflect fewer deaths among white babies and no change among blacks.

Heart disease remains the most common cause of death, accounting for 34 percent of all the 2,150,466 deaths recorded during the year. However, even that represents a 22 percent decline in heart disease deaths since 1979, and a 6.3 percent decline since 1988. There was virtually no change in the death rate from cancer. Stroke deaths declined about 5.7 percent, the center reported.

The fourth most common cause of death, accidents, declined slightly, and there was no change in the death rate from chronic lung disease, to round out the five most common causes. AIDS, which was the 15th leading cause of death in 1988, moved up to 11th in 1989, and homicides moved from 12th to 10th.

"The success our nation has shown in dealing with the major causes of death cannot overshadow the need to conquer those diseases that plague our young adults," said Dr. William L. Roper, director of the Centers for Disease Control.