Why do Black Americans Live Shorter Lives than White Americans? Heart Disease, Cancer and Homicide

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Americans are living longer than they did more than 40 years ago. But life expectancy is not the same among different racial groups, with blacks living nearly four years less on average than whites because of heart attacks, cancer, murders and other factors.


In 1970, the average American lived 70.8 years. By 2010, that number had risen to 78.7 years. Among whites, life expectancy went up about 10% from 71.7 years to 78.9 years. Blacks experienced a 17% increase, going from 64.1 years to 75.1 years.


As these numbers demonstrate, whites are still living longer than blacks, by almost four years.


Experts at the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) say the discrepancy is due to higher death rates caused by heart disease, cancer, homicide, diabetes, and problems occurring during childbirth or early childhood. All of these factors combined accounted for about 60% of the black population disadvantage.


Heart disease alone is responsible for trimming slightly more than one year off the lives of blacks, according to the NCHS).

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To LearnMore:

How Did Cause of Death Contribute to Racial Differences in Life Expectancy in the United States in 2010? (by Kenneth D. Kochanek, Elizabeth Arias and Robert N. Anderson, National Center for Health Statistics) (pdf) (see figure 3 on page 3)

White Women in U.S. Live 10 Years Longer than Black Men (by David Wallechinsky, AllGov)


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