In roughly the last 20 years, the black population has experienced gains in life expectancy at more than double the pace of whites. But the population still has a shorter life span overall compared to whites.
Between 1995 and 2014, life expectancy for blacks increased by six years from 69.6 years on average to 75.6 years, according to a report published Thursday in JAMA. The six-year gain far outpaces whites, who experienced an average 2½-year life expectancy increase in the same period from 76.5 years in 1995 to 79 years in 2014.
Despite the gains among blacks, whites still have a higher life expectancy by more than three years.
The life expectancy gains among the black population can be attributed to a decline in deaths related to HIV and cardiovascular disease, wrote Victor Fuchs, author of the report and a health economist at Stanford University.
Fuchs notes that “although cardiovascular disease is still a major cause of death,” the average age of death for this disease has increased. Average age of death related to cardiovascular disease among black men was 68. For both black and white women, it was 85.
Blacks are more likely to die from several diseases like prostate, breast and colon cancers, HIV or diabetes. Fuchs notes, “it appears that progress in just a few causes probably will not be enough; progress in many causes will be required.”
Blacks are also more likely to die from homicide by a significant margin compared to whites. In 2014, homicides accounted for 17.2 of 100,000 deaths among blacks, as opposed to 3 of 100,000 among whites.
Opportunities to decrease the homicide death rate would depend on public health measures like gun control more so than changes in medical care, Fuchs writes.
And although women on average continue to outlive men, life expectancy among men increased faster than women. The average black man lived 65.7 years in 1995 compared with 72.5 years in 2014. The almost seven-year increase outpaced black women. In the same time frame, life expectancy among black women increased by a little over four years from 73.9 to 78.4.
The same trend was true for white men and women. Life expectancy for white men from 1995 to 2014 increased by three years from 73.3 to 76.7. That's opposed to a barely two-year increase among white women from 79.6 years to 81.4 years in the same time frame.