While black males still live five-and-a-half years less than their white counterparts on average, a study shows that in the past decade, the U.S. has made unprecedented progress in decreasing the life-expectancy gap between blacks and whites.
According to “Trends in the Black-White Life Expectancy Gap 2003-2008,” published June 6 in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the gap in life expectancy between blacks and whites shrank approximately one year between 2003 and 2008, putting the racial disparity at its lowest rate ever.
The lead author of the report, Sam Harper of McGill University in Montreal, says the study carries a “dual message.”
“The gap in life expectancy between blacks and whites is now as small as it's ever been, and I think that's an important sign of progress,” Harper says. “That being said, the gap is still substantial. There is still work to be done.”
Harper and his co-authors used mortality statics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to estimate life expectancy at birth and compare differences between non-Hispanic white and black Americans.
Dr. Clyde Yancy, professor of medicine and chief of cardiology at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine, calls the study's findings “truly encouraging” and emphasizes the need for further progress.