U.S. life expectancy reached nearly 78 years (77.9), and the age-adjusted death rate dropped to 760.3 deaths per 100,000 population — both records — according to the latest mortality statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The report, “Deaths: Preliminary Data for 2007,” was issued by CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics. The data are based on nearly 90 percent of death certificates in the United States.

The 2007 increase in life expectancy — up from 77.7 in 2006 — represents a continuation of a trend. Over a decade, life expectancy has increased 1.4 years from 76.5 years in 1997 to 77.9 in 2007.

Other findings:

  • Record-high life expectancy was recorded for both males and females (75.3 years and 80.4 years, respectively). While the gap between male and female life expectancy has narrowed since the peak gap of 7.8 years in 1979, the 5.1-year difference in 2007 is the same as in 2006.
  • For the first time, life expectancy for black males reached 70 years.
  • The U.S. mortality rate fell for the eighth straight year to an all-time low of 760.3 deaths per 100,000 population in 2007 — 2.1 percent lower than the 2006 rate of 776.5. The 2007 mortality rate is half of what it was 60 years ago (1,532 per 100,000 in 1947).
  • The preliminary number of deaths in the United States in 2007 was 2,423,995, a 2,269 decrease from the 2006 total.
  • Heart disease and cancer, the two leading causes of death, accounted for nearly half (48.5 percent) of all deaths in 2007.
  • Between 2006 and 2007, mortality rates declined significantly for eight of the 15 leading causes of death. Declines were observed for influenza and pneumonia (8.4 percent), homicide (6.5 percent), accidents (5 percent), heart disease (4.7 percent), stroke (4.6 percent), diabetes (3.9 percent), hypertension (2.7 percent) and cancer (1.8 percent).
  • The death rate for the fourth-leading cause of death, chronic lower respiratory diseases, increased 1.7 percent. Preliminary death rates also increased for Parkinson’s disease, chronic liver disease and cirrhosis, and Alzheimer’s, but these gains are not statistically significant.
  • There were an estimated 11,061 deaths from HIV/AIDS in 2007, and mortality rates from the disease declined 10 percent from 2006, the biggest one-year decline since 1998. HIV remains the sixth-leading cause of death among 25- to 44-year-olds.
  • The preliminary infant mortality rate for 2007 was 6.77 infant deaths per 1,000 live births, a 1.2 percent increase from the 2006 rate of 6.69, though not considered statistically significant. Birth defects were the leading cause of infant death in 2007, followed by disorders related to preterm birth and low birthweight. Sudden infant death syndrome was the third-leading cause of infant death in the United States.

It’s always encouraging to see life expectancy inching higher, but the United States is far from the world’s leader in this category. If you lived in Andorra, a small landlocked country in southwestern Europe between Spain and France, your life expectancy would be 82.5 years. Japan is second on the list at 82.1 years. The United States is 38th, behind such countries as Australia, Canada, France, Sweden, Israel, Italy and Spain — all of which have life expectancies above 80 years. At the bottom of the scale, 18 of the 195 countries listed by the United Nations have life expectancy below 50 years. Of those, Swaziland ranks last at 39.5 years. Iraq ranks 153rd on the list at 59.5 years, and Afghanistan ranks 188th at 43.8 years. The overall world average life expectancy is 67.2 years, with males averaging 65 years and females averaging 69.5 year. — Greg Henderson