Americans Are Living Longer Than Ever. But There's A Flipside, Too.

According to the Center for Disease Control, life expectancy in the U.S. is on the rise across the board. People born in 2009 will live almost half a year longer than those born a year earlier, and 2014 newborns will live even longer than that. Researchers chalk up the increase to better treatments for cardiovascular disease, but the rise in life expectancy was blunted slightly by an increase in deaths from chronic liver disease and suicide. In addition, there are still massive disparities from race to race, and when compared with other industrialized countries, the U.S. really doesn't have much to brag about.

“Improvements in heart disease and stroke mortality have had a big impact,” said Robert Anderson of the CDC. “That's a large proportion of total deaths and that's where the action really is in terms of improved life expectancy. That's really what's driving the trend."

The average life expectancy for Americans born in 2008 was 78.1 years. A year later, it was 78.5 years, and now, it’s at 78.7 years. However, it varies wildly depending on two factors: Race and gender.

Women tend to live longer than men, and Hispanic women tend to live longer than anybody else, with an average life expectancy of 83.5 years in 2009. On the other end of the spectrum are black men, whose life expectancy in 2009 was 71.1 years — almost 13 years lower (!) than that of Hispanic women.

However, if you dig a bit deeper in the data, there’s a small bit of encouraging news with regard to the racial disparities. Despite the fact that black men have consistently had the lowest life expectancy of all demographics — it even dropped for a number of years in the 1980s — they’ve also experienced a bigger increase in expected lifespan in the last thirty-five years than anybody else. While the disparity is still disturbing, things at least appear to be headed in the right direction.

From a global perspective, however, life expectancy in the U.S. is still rather pathetic. America isn't in the top 10. Or the top 20. No, America ranks 37th in the world in life expectancy, despite spending more money per person on health care than any other country.