Trends in causes of death among older persons in the United States
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Trends in causes of death among older persons in the United States

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  • Description:
    This report is one in a series from the National Center for Health Statistics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The series of reports on Aging trends was developed with support from the National Institute on Aging and its purpose is to monitor the health of the aging population. By providing this type of information, we hope to help focus research on the most effective ways to use resources and craft health policy to promote longer, healthier lives. This report presents information on the leading causes of death for older persons in the United States and the recent trends in mortality for this group and is primarily based on data available in the Data Warehouse on Trends in Health and Aging ( nchs/agingact.htm).

    Since 1900 life expectancy in the United States has dramatically increased, and the principal causes of death have changed. At the beginning of the 20th century, many Americans died young. Most did not live past the age of 65, their lives often abruptly ended by one of a variety of deadly infectious diseases. Over time, death rates dropped at all ages, most dramatically for the young. Today, the vast majority of children born in the United States can expect to live through childhood and into their eighth decade or beyond. About three-fourths of all deaths are among persons ages 65 and older. The majority of deaths are caused by chronic conditions such as heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease. During the 20th century these chronic diseases replaced acute infections as the major causes of death.

  • Content Notes:
    by Yelena Gorina, Donna Hoyert, Harold Lentzner, and Margie Goulding
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