A new study finds that the life expectancy gap between Whites and Blacks in the U.S. has narrowed in the past two decades.

Previous studies found that Whites were expected to outlive Blacks by three to five years.

The new findings, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association reveals that the gap has now declined to one year, the lowest point ever recorded.

The report found a dramatic drop in the life expectancy gap between 2003 and 2008. The life expectancy between Black and non-Hispanic White men declined from 6.5 years to 5.4 years with Black men living 70.8 years and White men 76.2 years. For women, the study showed a 3.7 year difference with Black women living to about 77.5 years and non-Hispanic White women living to approximately 81.2 years.

Researches attribute the fast decline to the lower mortality rates among Blacks dying from H.I.V infection, heart disease, and homicide.  The new study also revealed that the rise in rate of drug-related deaths among Whites has contributed to tightening the gap.

During the same period, the number of “unintentional poisonings” among Black men and women rose by 15 to 20 percent. However, the number of poisonings among White men and women rapidly increased by 60 to 75 percent. Study authors believe this upturn can be tied to the use of recreational drugs and painkiller abuse, especially among Whites ages 20 to 54.

“Our results are certainly consistent with the nationwide increase in painkiller abuse and overdose mortality in recent years…and suggest that this phenomenon is currently affecting Whites to a greater degree than Blacks,” explained Dr. Sam Harper, an author of the study and assistant professor of epidemiology, biostatistics, and occupational health at McGill University in Montreal.

Despite the good news of closing of this once wide gap, study authors are disappointed to attribute it to an increase in deaths among Whites.

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