Death Rates Falling for Some African Americans

Death rates have fallen by 25 percent for African-Americans since 1999, but younger blacks are still dying far too young from diseases that shouldn’t kill them, government researchers said Tuesday.

There’s been a “dramatic” 80 percent drop in deaths from the HIV/AIDS among blacks, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found. And for African-Americans over the age of 65, there’s almost no difference in death rates compared to whites. But younger blacks are not doing so well, the CDC team found.

“Blacks in their 20s, 30s and 40s are dying from … heart disease and diabetes,” CDC epidemiologist Timothy Cunningham, who led the study, told reporters. One problem is that the risk factors for stroke, diabetes and heart disease are silent. High blood pressure or clogged arteries rarely cause symptoms until there’s considerable damage. Another problem is getting health care in the first place.

“Blacks aged 18-34 years were less likely to have a personal doctor or health care provider than whites,” Cunningham’s team wrote in the report.

Overall, blacks under the age of 65 have a 40 percent higher death rate than whites the same age. A black child born in 2014 can expect to live to be 75.6, compared to 79 for a white child born that year.

“At ages 18-34 years, blacks had higher death rates than whites for eight of the 10 leading causes of death among blacks in that age group (heart disease; cancer; cerebrovascular disease; diabetes mellitus; homicide; HIV disease; and conditions resulting from pregnancy, childbirth, and the puerperium (recovery from childbirth),” the team wrote.