HealthDay News — According to a study published in the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, the overall mortality rate among black Americans dropped 25% between 1999 and 2015, although the average life expectancy still lags behind whites by almost 4 years.

The CDC researchers based these findings on data from the US Census Bureau, National Vital Statistics System, and the CDC’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. 

Among all age groups, deaths for any reason stood at 33% in 1999, but fell to 16% in 2015. Moreover, the gaps in mortality rates from cardiovascular disease and for all causes among blacks and whites aged 65 and older closed completely, the investigators found.

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Mortality rates for certain diseases are declining faster among blacks than whites, leading to smaller disparities, according to report author Timothy Cunningham, ScD, an epidemiologist in CDC’s Division of Population Health. 

“Deaths from heart disease in blacks 65 and older have declined by 43 percent, and deaths in whites 65 and older have declined by 38%. For cancer, deaths decreased in blacks by nearly 29% and by 20% in whites,” Cunningham told HealthDay.

Mortality associated with HIV among blacks aged 18 to 49 dropped 80% between 1999 and 2015. Significant declines in HIV deaths were also seen among whites. Yet a large disparity still exists between blacks and whites — black Americans are 7 to 9 times more likely to die from HIV than white Americans, the researchers found. 

Despite the progress, younger blacks are also more likely to live with or die from medical conditions that usually affect older whites, such as cardiovascular disease, stroke, and diabetes. Among young black Americans, risk factors for some other diseases — such as hypertension — may not be noticed or treated, the researchers added.


Cunningham TJ, et al. “Vital Signs: Racial Disparities in Age-Specific Mortality Among Blacks or African Americans — United States, 1999–2015.” Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2017. doi: 10.15585/mmwr.mm6617e1

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