Recently I came across an article summarizing vital statistics in the United States for 2010-2012. Much of the statistical news is encouraging. The average life expectancy of an infant born in the US in 2010 was 78.7 years. Said another way, this means that 50% of all children born in 2010 will live beyond 78.7 years. Given that these statistics include all of the children who die from terrible genetic problems, congenital malformations such as complex heart problems, and premature births, I find this data amazing. Compared to our ancestors, our chances of survival to old age are remarkable.
The 2010 data also revealed that the teen birth rate is at an historic low. I think this is great news. I care for a lot of teens, and I don’t know any who are equipped–emotionally, intellectually, or financially–to be parents. Success in our culture requires sophisticated skills that most teens do not possess. Since average life expectancy is now 78.7 years, why hurry to have children? Interestingly, the 2010 data suggests that more and more mothers appear to understand the benefits of delaying childbirth until they are truly ready to raise a family.
The 2010 data also reveals that the great challenges to improving children’s health are the same as they have been for the past 50 years: reducing or eliminating the number of children who are injured or killed by unintentional accidents or homicides. Children are hospitalized far more often for accidental injury than any other cause. It’s our responsibility as adults to keep them safe from burns, choking, automobile accidents, drownings, and so forth. Let’s roll up our sleeves and get to work. This time, the numbers don’t lie.
Written by Catherine Wu and Paul Smolen MD.