The gap in life expectancy between blacks and whites in the United States, long attributed to socioeconomic disparities and a range of other factors, continued its historical decline between 2003 and 2008 and is now the smallest ever, Canadian researchers say in a new report.
The study, which drew on data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other sources and was published in the June 6 edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association, found an increase in life expectancy for both men and women, black and white.
The researchers from McGill University in Montreal noted a convergence in the rate of deaths from HIV and heart disease as contributing to the narrowing of the life expectancy gap.
However the biggest factor in the narrowing of the gap, the researchers said, was an increase in the number of deaths among whites attributed to prescription drug abuse.
The study found that the gap in life expectancy between black and white women of non-Hispanic origin closed to 3.7 years in 2008, down from 4.6 years in 2003. For men, the gap has closed to 5.4 years, down from 6.5 years.
Life expectancy at birth for white men now stands at 76.2 years, up from 75.3 years, compared with 70.8 years for black men, up from 68.8 years. For white women, life expectancy rose from 80.3 to 81.2 years, and for black women from 75.7 to 77.5 years.