AIDS Deaths Dim Prospects for More Gains in US Life Expectancy

AIDS Deaths Dim Prospects for More Gains in US Life Expectancy

NEW YORK-Life expectancy in the United States fell slightly between 1992 and 1993 and did not improve in 1994. The increase in overall mortality stems from increases in the number of deaths caused by the major killers (heart disease and cancer), as well as respiratory diseases (COPD, pneumonia, and influenza) and diabetes mellitus.

But overall, and particularly among certain age groups, the decrease in life expectancy is closely linked to the increase in deaths from AIDS.

Life expectancy in this country peaked at 75.8 years in 1992 after a steady rise from the 1940s, but fell in 1993 to 75.5 years and remained at that level in 1994, Stanley Kranczer reports in the Statistical Bulletin (Jul/Sept:12-20, 1995), the journal of the National Center for Health Statistics, published by the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company.

In 1992, AIDS was responsible for 33,566 deaths, which rose to about 38,500 in 1993, and to more than 40,000 in 1994. These increases in AIDS-related deaths have a more significant impact on overall longevity than do increases in deaths due to diseases that commonly affect older people because these older people would die anyway of some other cause within a few years, Mr. Kranczer explained.

Death rates for men aged 29 to 41, the age group most affected by AIDS-related deaths, were higher in 1992 than in the 1979 to 1981 period. The increase stands out, since during that same time period, death rates fell among men under age 29.

Similar findings are beginning to show up in women, he said. Death rates remained fairly stable from 1979-1981 to 1992 for women in their early to mid-30s, but for all other age groups, death rates during that time period decreased, and AIDS is the likely cause for this lack of improvement in life expectancy among women in their 30s.

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