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U.S. Life Expectancy Reaches New High, But Suicide Rate Rises

 / Updated 
An infant grasps volunteer Kathleen Jones' hand in the neonatal intensive care unit at the University of Chicago's Comer Children's Hospital in Chicago on Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014. Jones, 52, is one of several people who volunteer to cuddle babies at the hospital. Research shows that cuddling helps calm the babies, many who are born prematurely or who have serious health issues, and aids in their early development. Martha Irvine / AP, file

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As major diseases become a little less lethal, American life expectancy has reached a new high, a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found. A baby born in the U.S. in 2012 can expect to live 78.8 years on average — or just over a month longer than a baby born the previous year.

As usual, women can expect to live longer: 81.2 years, compared to 76.4 years for men. “Although changes in mortality are relatively small from one year to the next, long-term trends show the apparent progress in reducing mortality,” the CDC said in the report.

The overall death rate fell by 1.1 percent, with most deaths caused by heart disease, cancer, chronic lower respiratory diseases, stroke, unintentional injuries, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, influenza and pneumonia, kidney disease and suicide. The number of Americans succumbing to eight of those 10 leading causes of death “decreased significantly,” the National Center for Health Statistics found. But the suicide rate rose by 2.4 percent, something that’s puzzling researchers.

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 The ten leading causes of death in 2012. CDC/NCHS, National Vital Statistics System, Mortality

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