US Wealth and Innovation Drive Record Life Expectancy

COMMENTARY Public Health

US Wealth and Innovation Drive Record Life Expectancy

Mar 18, 2011 1 min read

Former Senior Research Fellow in Regulatory Policy

Diane Katz was a research fellow in regulatory policy at The Heritage Foundation.

The Obama Administration attempts to justify its unprecedented torrent of regulation as necessary to protect Americans’ health and welfare. But new data on U.S. life expectancy certainly belie regulators’ seemingly incessant assertions that America is unfit for man and beast.

Life expectancy at birth increased to a whopping 78.2 years in 2009, up two-tenths of a year from 2008—and a mere 49.2 in 1900, according to the report issued on Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control. Women outlive men 80.6 years to 75.7, on average, although the gap has generally decreased since its peak of 7.8 years in 1979.

From a statistical standpoint, life expectancy represents fewer infant deaths and the increased longevity of seniors. Today, the average 65-year-old woman in the United States can expect to live an additional 20 years, and her male counterpart can look forward to another 17 years.

The infant mortality rate for 2009 (preliminary) was 6.42 infant deaths per 1,000 live births, a decrease of 2.6 percent from 2008.

Contrary to claims that only government can save us, Americans are living longer because of stunning scientific and technological progress. The advent of modern pharmaceuticals, diagnostic tools, and vaccines, as well as chlorination, insecticides, and refrigeration, has dramatically reduced the risks of dying.

Indeed, the overall age-adjusted death rate reached a record low of 741 per 100,000 people in 2009, some 2.3 percent lower than the prior year. This marks the 10th year in a row that U.S. death rates have declined.

Moreover, deaths from 10 of the 15 leading causes declined “significantly” in 2009, according to the CDC: heart disease (declined 3.7 percent); cancer (1.1 percent); chronic lower respiratory diseases (4.1 percent); stroke (4.2 percent); accidents/unintentional injuries (4.1 percent); Alzheimer’s disease (4.1 percent); diabetes (4.1 percent); influenza and pneumonia (4.7 percent); septicemia (1.8 percent); and, homicide (6.8 percent).

Evidence abounds that improved living standards are both a cause and consequence of societal wealth. Higher incomes increase access to goods and services that promote robust health. In turn, healthier people are more productive and innovative, generating even more wealth. These are facts the President and his band of regulators would do well to remember before crafting yet more killer dictates.

This piece originally appeared in The Daily Signal