Despite the outbreak of AIDS, Americans are living longer than ever - an average of almost 76 years, the government reported Thursday.

The death rate in the United States was the lowest ever in 1992, falling to 504.5 per 100,000 people, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. A total of 2,175,613 people died.The 1992 infant mortality rate reached an all-time low of 8.5 deaths per 1,000 live births, compared with 8.9 per 1,000 in 1991.

The average life expectancy climbed to an all-time high of 75.8, the number of years a person born in 1992 could expect to live. That was up from 75.5 in 1991.

Death rates for 12 of the 15 leading killers dropped in 1992, said CDC statistician Ken Kochanek (see graphic). But deaths from

AIDS jumped sharply - up 11.5 percent - and there was little or no change in the rates of death from diabetes and kidney disease.

"Things look very good," Kochanek said. "Unfortunately, the main increase was in HIV," the virus that causes AIDS. "HIV is definitely holding back bigger gains in life expectancy," he said.

The CDC expects the AIDS death rate to jump even higher for 1993, in part because of a change in the government's definition of the disease.

AIDS, which killed 33,566 Americans in 1992, rose a notch to become the eighth leading cause of death that year.

Overall, death rates for the six leading causes of death - heart disease, cancer, stroke, lung disease, accidents and pneumonia-influenza - all dropped in 1992.


Additional Information

Top 10 Causes of Death

While deaths from AIDS are more numerous than ever, lower death rates from other major diseases mean Americans are living longer. The average U.S. life expectancy is now 75.8 years.

1992 % change,

Rank Cause of death Age-adjusted 1979 to 1992

death rate*

1 heart disease 144.3 -27.

2 cancer 133.1 1.

3 brain diseases 26.2 -37.

4 chronic lung disease 19.9 36

5 accidents 29.4 -31.

motor-vehicle 15.8 -31.

all other 13.7 -30.

6 pneumonia

and influenza 12.7 13

7 diabetes 11.9 21.

8 HIV infection 12.6 --

9 suicide 11.1 -5.1

10 homicide 10.5 2.

*Per 100,000 population, age adjusted to the 1940 U.S. population