Background: Although the overall life expectancy at birth has increased for both blacks and whites and the gap between these populations has narrowed, disparities in life expectancy and the leading causes of death for blacks compared with whites in the United States remain substantial. Understanding how factors that influence these disparities vary across the life span might enhance the targeting of appropriate interventions.
Methods: Trends during 1999-2015 in mortality rates for the leading causes of death were examined by black and white race and age group. Multiple 2014 and 2015 national data sources were analyzed to compare blacks with whites in selected age groups by sociodemographic characteristics, self-reported health behaviors, health-related quality of life indicators, use of health services, and chronic conditions.
Results: During 1999-2015, age-adjusted death rates decreased significantly in both populations, with rates declining more sharply among blacks for most leading causes of death. Thus, the disparity gap in all-cause mortality rates narrowed from 33% in 1999 to 16% in 2015. However, during 2015, blacks still had higher death rates than whites for all-cause mortality in all groups aged <65 years. Compared with whites, blacks in age groups <65 years had higher levels of some self-reported risk factors and chronic diseases and mortality from cardiovascular diseases and cancer, diseases that are most common among persons aged ≥65 years.
Conclusions and implications for public health practice: To continue to reduce the gap in health disparities, these findings suggest an ongoing need for universal and targeted interventions that address the leading causes of deaths among blacks (especially cardiovascular disease and cancer and their risk factors) across the life span and create equal opportunities for health.