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U.S. Death Rate Falls, Alzheimer’s Hits Harder

Young U.S. residents could expect to live a tiny bit longer in 2010 than in 2009, but older U.S. residents probably had no such luck.

Overall life expectancy increased to 78.7 years in 2010, from 78.6 years in 2009, and the overall age-adjusted death rate fell to 746.2 deaths per 100,000 people, from 749.6 deaths per 100,000 people.

For U.S. residents ages 50 and older, life expectancy was almost exactly the same in 2010 as it was in 2009.

Although the life expectancy for older adults stayed the same, the actual death rate for people ages 85 and older increased 1.9%, to 13,918 deaths per 100,000.

Sherry Murphy and other researchers at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have published those figures in a preliminary 2010 mortality report based on state death reports processed by the CDC as of Nov. 8, 2011.

Long-term care insurance (LTCI carriers cannot assume the experience of their insureds will be the same as the experience for the country as a whole.

The people covered by private LTCI policies typically have gone through some kind of selection process. They tend to be healthier and wealthier than the population as a whole, and they may have access to better health care.

But the preliminary 2010 U.S. death data may reflect that trends that affected LTCI insureds as well as the general population.

The CDC researchers found, for example, that the major causes of death stayed about the same in 2010, but the age-adjusted death rate for influenza and pneumonia fell sharply, to 15.1, from 16.5.

The overall death rates for heart disease, cancer, chronic lung disease and stroke were also down. But the age-adjusted death rate for two conditions associated with old age — Alzheimer’s disease and pneumonitis, or inhalation of solids and liquids, — increased.

The Alzheimer’s death rate increased 3.3%, to 25, and the death rate for pneumonitis increased 4.1%, to 5.1. The death rate for Parkinson’s disease jumped 4.6%, to 6.8.

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