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Good news! We’re living longer! (But, um, not as long as people in 30 other countries)

At least life expectancy in the United States is heading in the right direction.

At least life expectancy in the United States is heading in the right direction. In fact, it’s at an all-time high.

According to a report issued Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the average life expectancy for Americans reached 77.9 years in 2007.

That’s up from 77.7 years in 2006 — and an impressive 1.4 years more than the 76.5 years of a decade earlier (1997).

Way to go, everybody.

Both men and women are enjoying longer lives, although the life-expectancy gap between them has narrowed considerably. In the “peak gap” year — 1979 — women outlived men by 7.8 years. That gap has now shrunk to 5.1 years, with men now living to 75.3 years and women to 80.4 years.

Under the category of good-but-definitely-not-good-enough news, the CDC report also found that life expectancy for African-American men reached 70 years for the first time.

Heart disease and cancer accounted for almost half (48.5 percent) of deaths in 2007. But the death rates for eight of the 15 leading causes of death — including heart disease and cancer — declined significantly: influenza and pneumonia (8.4 percent), homicide (6.5 percent), accidents (5 percent), heart disease (4.7 percent), stroke (4.6 percent), diabetes (3.9 percent), hypertension (2.7 percent) and cancer (1.8 percent).

Of course, that means the death rates didn’t decline for seven other leading causes, including Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. Alzheimer’s disease actually shot ahead of diabetes on the list.

And, although HIV/AIDS isn’t in the top 15 causes of death in the United States (it is, though, the sixth leading cause of death among 25- to 44-year-olds), its death rate declined 10 percent from 2006, the biggest drop since 1998.

That’s the good news. Here’s the bad news:

Despite living to an average age of almost 80 years, we continue to lag 30 other countries in life expectancy, according to the United Nations.

We’re behind the usual suspects — countries like Britain, Germany, Greece, Norway, Belgium, Australia, France, Japan and Israel.

But we’re also behind some countries that might surprise you: Singapore, Cyprus, Malta, Chile and Costa Rica.

Apparently, however, we’ve finally inched ahead of Cuba! And we’ve tied Denmark and South Korea!

Pretty good for the country with, as so many pundits like to tell us lately, “the best healthcare in the world.”

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For more info:

The CDC’s life-expectancy projection was based on about 90 percent of death certificates filed in the United States in 2007. You can read the full report here.

Want to get a rough estimate of your own life expectancy? Grab a calculator and go to the Minnesota State Retirement System’s website.