U.S. blacks living longer, but health gaps persist: CDC study

ATLANTA (Reuters) - African-Americans are generally living longer than in 2000, but health disparities mean they are still more likely to die at a younger age on average than whites, a federal study showed on Tuesday.

FILE PHOTO: A doctor checks the blood pressure of a patient in downtown Los Angeles, U.S., on July 30, 2007. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson/File Photo

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study of data from 1999 to 2015 shows that younger black people in their 20s, 30s and 40s are living with, or dying from, diseases that are typically seen in older people.

“The disparity in deaths between the white and black populations is closing. Even so, critical disparities remain,” Leandris Liburd, associate director of CDC’s Office of Minority Health and Health Equity, said in a conference call.

The death rate, which is usually calculated as deaths per 1,000 people per year, fell 25 percent for African-Americans during the 17-year period, mostly for those aged 65 and older, the CDC said.

In 2014, life expectancy was 75.6 years for blacks and 79 years for whites, which was an increase since 2000 of 3.8 years for blacks and 1.7 years for whites, the CDC said.

However, the study also said “blacks have the highest death rate and shorter survival rate for all cancers combined compared with whites in the United States.”

In addition, death rates from heart disease, cancer, diabetes mellitus and homicide have been increasing at earlier ages among blacks than among whites, the CDC study said.

“Blacks were more likely to be obese, to have no leisure time physical activity and less likely to have a normal body weight in all age groups compared with whites,” according to the study.

Timothy Cunningham, a CDC epidemiologist and the study’s lead author, said on the conference call: “Across all age groups, homicide among blacks has two-and-a-half times the death rate as HIV and three-and-a-half times the death rate as suicide.”

The death rate for homicide among blacks has remained unchanged from 1999 to 2015, the study showed.

Deaths from HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, among blacks aged 18 to 49 dropped 80 percent over the period of the study. But blacks in the United States still remain seven to nine times more likely to die from HIV than whites, the study said.

The CDC based its report on data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the National Vital Statistics System and its own Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System.

Reporting by David Beasley; editing by Ian Simpson, G Crosse