Although life expectancy at birth rose slightly for Americans, troubling chronic health problems, such as obesity and diabetes, persisted, according to the federal government's 34th annual report on the nation's health released Feb. 16.
Life expectancy at birth in 2007 was 77.9 years, up slightly from 77.6 years in 2006 and 76.8 years in 2000, the National Center for Health Statistics said in its report, "Health, United States, 2010." (The latest statistics for life expectancy are based on 2007 data.)
Racial disparities in life expectancy at birth persist, but are less intense than in previous decades. The gap in life expectancy at birth between white and black males narrowed from eight years to six years, and the gap between white and black females dropped from six years to four years since 1990.
White women continue to live longer than other groups overall. In 2007, life expectancy at birth for white women was 80.8 years, versus 76.8 years for black women. Life expectancy at birth for white men in 2007 was 75.9 years, compared to 70 years for black men.
Chronic health conditions also on the rise
Obesity rates, although high, remained steady. Almost one in five children over the age of 5 was obese in 2007 to 2008, according to the report. Among adults ages 20 and older, about one third were obese, and about two-thirds were obese or overweight. Obesity rates declined slightly for children ages 2 to 5, but continued to rise for children 6 to 19.
Diabetes rates continue to increase. Among adults age 20 and older, 11 percent had diabetes in 2005 to 2008, up from 8 percent in 1988 to 1994.
Life expectancy is a key factor in life insurance rates. The longer a person is expected to live, the lower the rate. An insurance applicant's health and age also impact rates. The best rates can be had by the young and healthy.