Blacks living longer but still face health disadvantages

Black Americans are gaining in life expectancy, according to new federal data. In 1990, the gap between black and white life expectancy was seven years; by 2014, it was down to 3.4 years, with life expectancy at 75.6 years for blacks and 79 years for whites.

The gains have come from declines in the suicide rate among black men, and declines in black infant deaths, the black homicide rate, and cancer deaths among blacks.

Despite the gains, blacks are still at a major health disadvantage compared with whites, according to David R. Williams, Florence Sprague Norman and Laura Smart Norman Professor of Public Health at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Williams said in a May 8, 2016 New York Times article that the excess in premature deaths among blacks is the equivalent of a jumbo jet crashing every day.

“We have had this peculiar indifference to this unprecedented loss of black lives on a massive scale for a very long time,” he said. “That to me is the big story.”

Read the New York Times article: Black Americans See Gains in Life Expectancy