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Natl Vital Stat Rep. 2006 Apr 19;54(13):1-120.

Deaths: final data for 2003.

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  • 1U.S. Department OF Health AND Human Services National Center for Health Statistics, Hyattsville, MD 20782, USA.



This report presents final 2003 data on U.S. deaths; death rates; life expectancy; infant and maternal mortality; and trends by selected characteristics such as age, sex, Hispanic origin, race, marital status, educational attainment, injury at work, State of residence, and cause of death. A previous report presented preliminary mortality data for 2003 and summarized key findings in the final data for 2003.


This report presents descriptive tabulations of information reported on death certificates, which are completed by funeral directors, attending physicians, medical examiners, and coroners. The original records are filed in the State registration offices. Statistical information is compiled into a national database through the Vital Statistics Cooperative Program of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's, National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS). Causes of death are processed in accordance with the International Classification of Diseases, Tenth Revision (ICD-10).


In 2003, a total of 2,448,288 deaths were reported in the United States. The age-adjusted death rate was 832.7 deaths per 100,000 standard population, representing a decrease of 1.5 percent from the 2002 rate and a record low historical figure. Life expectancy at birth rose by 0.2 years to a record high of 77.5 years. Considering all deaths, age-specific death rates rose only for those 45-54 years and declined for the age groups 55-64 years, 65-74 years, 75-84 years, and 85 years and over. For the most part, the 15 leading causes of death in 2003 remained the same as in 2002. Heart disease and cancer continued to be the leading and second leading causes of death, together accounting for over half of all deaths. Homicide became the 15th leading cause in 2003, dropping from the 14th leading cause in 2002. Pneumonitis dropped out of the top 15 altogether, and Parkinson's disease entered the list as the 14th leading cause of death. The infant mortality rate in 2003 was 6.85 per 1,000 births.


Generally, mortality patterns in 2003 were consistent with long-term trends. Life expectancy in 2003 increased again to a new record level. The age-adjusted death rate declined to a record low historical figure. The infant mortality rate decreased significantly in 2003; except for 2002, it either decreased or remained level each successive year from 1958 to 2003.

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