From the National Center for Health Statistics [PDF]
Mortality in the United States is best summarized by the age-adjusted death
rate—a measure that accounts for changes in the age distribution of the
population. This rate has declined in an almost uninterrupted manner since
1960. The death rate is now 45 percent lower than in 1960 (declining from
1,339.2 per 100,000 standard population in 1960 to 741.0 in 2009).
Although age-adjusted mortality has declined for all demographic groups
over a period of many decades, long-standing gaps between black and white
populations and between male and female populations have begun to narrow
only since the mid-1990s. Many of the recent improvements in death rates
and life expectancy for all population groups can be attributed to ongoing
reductions in death rates from major causes of death, such as heart disease,
cancer, stroke, and chronic lower respiratory diseases.