New Yorkers are living longer

By Queens Courier Staff |

Viva New Yorkers! According to recent findings published by the city’s Health Department, New Yorkers born in 2007 have an increased life expectancy reaching 82 years for women, and 76.3 for men, exceeding national averages.

“Helping people live longer, better lives is the core responsibility of government, which is why nearly every initiative we take on is focused on that goal,” said Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Mayor Bloomberg and City Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley announced the discovery, which is published in the Health Department’s Annual Summary of Vital Statistics. The increase, a gain of nearly 5 months since 2006, is the longest average life expectancy ever recorded in NYC. The report also provides detailed statistics on births and deaths in 2008, finding that the overall death rate remained at a historic low and deaths from many preventable causes also declined.

The citywide death rate was 6.5 deaths per 1,000 people in 2008 – nearly 20 percent lower than the national death rate of 8.1 per 1,000 in 2006, the most recent year on record. From 2007 to 2008, deaths due to HIV fell by 4 percent in the city; in Queens, 7 per 100,000 people died from an HIV-related disease. However, for the first time since the beginning of the epidemic, no New Yorker under age 15 has died from HIV disease.

In addition, drug-related deaths decreased by 13 percent; in Queens, 6 deaths per 100,000 people were recorded. Accidental drug overdose still holds the spot as one of the leading causes of premature death for adult New Yorkers. Alcohol, another leading cause of premature mortality, remained the same in 2008 as in 2003, responsible for about 1,700 deaths among New Yorkers over age 20.

Additionally, the report shows an ongoing decline in smoking-attributed deaths, which have fallen by 11 percent since 2003. Smoking-induced cardiovascular diseases, including heart attacks and strokes, were responsible for less than 591 fewer lives in 2008 than in 2003.

“New Yorkers can combat the leading causes of premature death by quitting smoking, being more active, maintaining heart-healthy diets, controlling high blood pressure and cholesterol, using condoms to prevent the spread of HIV, and living free of alcohol and drug dependence,” said Commissioner Farley. “We will continue to work with communities and health care providers to make New York the healthiest city we can.”

Lung cancer reigned as the deadliest cancer for New Yorkers under age 65 (894 deaths), followed by breast cancer (493 deaths), and colorectal cancer (450 deaths). Although overall cancer deaths fell in 2008, colorectal cancer numbers rose by 12 percent. Cardiovascular disease claimed less than 284 lives; heart disease (21,192 lives) and cancer (13,047 lives) were still the city’s biggest killers in 2008, the latest year for which records are available.

Concerning teen pregnancies, a decrease of about 1,300 births from 2007 was found in the report, although teen pregnancy remained common in some communities. Teens living in poor neighborhoods were nearly three times more likely to become pregnant than teens living in more affluent neighborhoods.

Bloomberg announced in the State of the City address last week that he planned to refine access to contraceptives in school and community-based clinics. The School-Based Health Center Reproductive Health Project is currently teaming with 33 of the city’s 41 high school clinics to increase access to a full range of contraceptives.

High schools that do not have health centers are linking sexually active students to nearby sites where they can receive birth control and other health services. Studies have found that since 1995, improved contraceptive use has accounted for most of the decline in teen pregnancy nationwide.

“The steady, continued increase in life expectancy demonstrates the remarkable progress we have made and the need to continue to press forward with bold health policies,” said Bloomberg. “The report shows too many New Yorkers still die from preventable causes and reveals persistent inequalities that show we must maintain our commitment to improving the health of all New Yorkers.”