Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Run the 'Life Expectancy Calculator' and Rejoice

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Run the 'Life Expectancy Calculator' and Rejoice

Article excerpt

It seems appropriate that the national report on our collective mortality comes out each year a few weeks before Halloween.

The ghoulish among us - and The Morning File is right with them - dive into the National Center for Health Statistics data about when and how and how much we're dying with the same giddiness as a 6- year-old tearing into Christmas presents or a pathetic middle-aged man salivating over a fantasy football guide in August.

It'd be great if we could tell you bad news filled the report, as that's what the media love to present, but other than the fact that a lot of people still die - 2.5 million Americans in 2012, but hey, good news, you weren't one of them - there were so many sweet positives you would expect to see Julie Andrews singing about them in a Disney movie, if this were the 1960s.

Thank God it's not the '60s, when people were smoking all day in offices and ignoring seat belts and smothering their bacon and eggs in DDT, and so everyone died earlier. U.S. life expectancy for a child born in 2012 was 78 years and 9 months, a new record, and if you were a 65-year-old in 2012, having shown your endurance by surviving Vietnam and the advent of loud rock music and the Ford Pinto's fireball crashes, you were estimated to have another 19.3 years on the planet.

Americans are doing a better job of avoiding or surviving most diseases, though of course this was all before the Ebola epidemic reached our shores. We expect the 2014 mortality report to be dominated by information about the one or three or seven Americans or whatever the number is who will die from exposure to that scourge.

The bad news in 2012 was about suicide, the 10th-leading cause of death. The suicide rate was the highest it has been since 1987. (We puzzled over why suicide would have been so high in 1987 before remembering that, around Pittsburgh at least, it must have been driven up by the NFL players' strike, which left the Steelers using replacements for several weeks.)

Never satisfied with just understanding general mortality trends, after reading the report this author went online to another favorite source of information: the "Life Expectancy Calculator. …

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