Two of New York’s killers on the run
Two of New York’s previous leading causes of death, HIV and tobacco-related illnesses, are not killing as many people as they once were.
Deaths from tobacco-related diseases are at an all-time low: 7,201 people died in 2009 from lung and pancreatic cancer, cardiovascular disease and pneumonia, according to data released by the New York City Department of Health.
The decline in tobacco-related deaths may be attributed to the fact that the number of smokers in New York is at its lowest ever. In fact, New Yorkers are less likely to smoke than elsewhere in the U.S.: 21 percent of adults nationwide smoke, according to the Centers for Disease Control, compared with 15 percent of adults in New York City.
Reducing smoking is one of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s biggest initiatives: In 2002 he famously banned smoking in bars and restaurants and now wants to ban it in parks, beaches and places like Times Square as well.
After more than two decades, HIV is no longer among the top five leading causes of death for New York men. The number of HIV-related deaths went down 3 percent in 2009, according to Health Department stats.
“People are living longer with HIV. People are getting treatment and the treatment is effective,” said Dr. Robert Klitzman of the HIV Center at Columbia University Medical Center. “However, the number of new cases of HIV infection is constant. The challenge that remains is that a good 10 to 20 percent of people with HIV do not know it, and they are continuing to spread it.”
New Yorkers are living longer than ever before — the new average life expectancy is 79 years old — but there are still vast discrepancies in longevity: White women, for example, live the longest in New York, with a median age of death at 84. Meanwhile, black and Hispanic men have the shortest average life spans, with a median age of death at 65, according to Health Department data.