US Death Rate Falls
If preliminary government figures are accurate, the US death rate fell significantly in 2004.
In what appears to be an amazing success for American medicine, preliminary government figures released Wednesday showed that the annual number of deaths in the U.S. dropped by nearly 50,000 in 2004 - the biggest decline in nearly 70 years.There's not much discussion in the AP article of why this might have occurred, except this:
The 2 percent decrease, reported by the National Center for Health Statistics, came as a shock to many, because the U.S. is aging, growing in population and getting fatter. In fact, some experts said they suspect the numbers may not hold up when a final report is released later this year.
Improvements in medical care, particularly in medications aimed at preventing heart disease, at least partly explain the improvements in the heart disease death rate, said Ken Thorpe, an Emory professor of health policy.My impression is that Western consumers have recently become more health-conscious. This can be seen in the new healthy options offered at fast-food restaurants such as McDonalds and Burger King, and the rise of Subway. I wonder whether the lowered death rate is related to the health trend?
Update: some more speculation at FuturePundit's blog. You can see the actual report here. Apparently, a report that includes a more complete analysis of the preliminary data is forthcoming.