Objectives: This report presents final 1997 data on U.S. deaths and death rates according to demographic and medical characteristics such as age, sex, race, Hispanic origin, marital status, educational attainment, injury at work, State of residence, and cause of death. Trends and patterns in general mortality, life expectancy, and infant and maternal mortality are also described. A previous report presented preliminary mortality data for 1997.
Methods: In 1997 a total of 2,314,245 deaths were reported in the United States. This report presents descriptive tabulations of information reported on the death certificates. Death certificates are completed by funeral directors, attending physicians, medical examiners, and coroners. Original records are filed in the State registration offices. Statistical information is compiled into a national data base through the Vital Statistics Cooperative Program of the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Results: The 1997 age-adjusted death rate for the United States decreased to an all-time low of 479.1 deaths per 100,000 standard population, and life expectancy at birth increased to a record high of 76.5 years. The 15 leading causes of death remained the same as in 1996, although Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection plummeted from the 8th leading cause of death to the 14th leading cause. Some of the 8th-14th leading causes of death shifted positions. HIV infection remained the leading cause of death for black persons aged 25-44 years. The largest decline in age-adjusted death rates among the leading causes of death was for HIV infection, which dropped 47.7 percent between 1996 and 1997. Mortality declined for all age groups, except for persons aged 85 and over. The infant mortality rate reached a record low of 7.2 infant deaths per 1,000 live births in 1997 although the decline in the rate from 1996 was not statistically significant.
Conclusions: The overall improvements in general mortality and life expectancy in 1997 continue the long-term downward trend in U.S. mortality. The trend in U.S. infant mortality is of steady declines over the past four decades.