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Good News: We’re Living Longer


Life expectancy in the United States increased as of 2012, (the last year for which there is data). Babies born in 2012 have an average life expectancy of 78.8 years, although baby girls can expect to outlive baby boys by almost five years, the same additional span as babies born in 2011, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which released the new statistics. (Baby girls born in 2012 have a life expectancy of 81.2 years while boys can look forward to an average of 76.4 years). The reason for the uptick: declines in mortality rates for the two leading causes of death - heart disease and cancer. These two diseases now account for 46.5 percent of all deaths. The CDC also determined that a woman who was 65 in 2012 could expect to live 20.5 more years while men who were 65 in 2012 could look forward to 17.9 more years. In other good news, the CDC reported that the infant mortality rate dropped by 1.5 percent in 2012 to a historic low of 597.8 infant deaths per 100,000 live births.

New Lifespan Indicator

The latest on the traits that may be associated with longer life comes from a British study showing that the speedier your reaction time in mid-life, the better your chances of reaching old age. The researchers collected data from more than 5,000 people (age 20 to 59) enrolled in the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES-III) being performed in the US. The reaction time test was very straightforward: all participants had to do was tap a key on a computer when a particular image appeared on the screen. Over the next 15 years, 378 of the study participants died. The researchers found that those with slower reaction times were more likely to have died from any cause compared to others with average reaction times. This held true even after the researchers accounted for such factors as the participants’ age, sex, ethnicity, socioeconomic background and life style. Study leader Gareth Hagger-Johnson of University College London explained that reaction time may indicate “how well our central nervous and other systems in the body are working. People who are consistently slow to respond to new information may go on to experience problems that increase their risk of early death.” The cheering news, of course, is that average reaction times are OK, longevity-wise.

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