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Life Expectancy: Not Sure What to Expect

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Wellness related image Photo: Getty Images

There’s no fool-proof way of predicting how long future generations will live. Scientists and researchers have been providing projections on life expectancy for dozens of years now, but it’s not getting any clearer.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently released a report saying the life expectancy is on the rise. But according to the U.S. National Research Council (NRC), life expectancy is going in the inverse direction.

According to a preliminary report released by the CDC, experts estimated that life expectancy in the United States is rising. Breaking the previous records, experts predict that a baby born in 2009 has the life expectancy of 78 years, 2 months, up from just under 78 in 2007.

CDC researchers and experts said it is not as simple as providing one explanation for the increase, but rather, they believe “better medical treatment, vaccination campaigns and public health measures against smoking are believed to be having an impact,” according to a summary released by the Associated Press.

Furthermore, the infant mortality rate hit a record low of 6.42 deaths per 1,000 live births, a drop of nearly 3 percent from 2008.

Life expectancy varies slightly among sex and race. White women hold the top expectancy at roughly 80.5 years of age; white males expectancy is roughly 75.5 years. Black women’s life expectancy spans 77.2 years and black males is 70.2 years.

All that sounds great, but the NRC says the opposite is occurring. Mostly due to America’s history with smoking, an obesity epidemic and a lack of exercise, children born in other countries are expected to outlive U.S. children

When today's senior citizens were younger, Americans used to smoke more than people in other rich countries. This accounts for about 40 percent of the lag in life expectancy for U.S. men - and almost 80 percent for U.S. women. Obesity is the next most important factor, accounting for between one-fifth and one-third of the U.S. shortfall in life expectancy.

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