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More Americans Living (and Dying) Past 100 Years

Renee Despres
Monday, February 20, 2017 - 05:25Three men

When is an increase in the number and percentage of deaths a good sign? When the deaths are occurring in people 100 years of age or older.

It’s not that we’re celebrating anyone’s death at any age. But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported on Thursday, November 21 that the number of deaths in among people 100 years or older (known as "centenarians") rose dramatically from 1980 to 2010, reflecting one thing: The number of people who are living past the century mark has been increasing.

Centenarians are a difficult population to study, as they are still relatively few and, well, tend to lie about their ages. So statisticians often rely on death certificates to gather more concrete information about how many people are living longer than 100 years. The new CDC analysis showed that from 1980 to 2010:

  • The number of deaths among women 100 years or older more than tripled 4,668 to 18,222
  • The number of deaths among male centenarians more than doubled from 1,552 to 3,607
  • The percentage of centenarian deaths among all deaths also increased, from 0.51% to 1.47% among women and from 0.14% to 0.29% among males.

Throughout the two decades, the number of deaths among female centenarians ranged from three to five times higher than the number among males.

Nice to Know: Friends are the Fountain of Youth

Ask a centenarian for the secret to a long life? Besides “eat your veggies,” and “exercise every day,” they’ll probably tell you “Have lots of friends.” Studies show that people who are socially connected live longer, happier, and healthier than those who go it alone.

In 2010, according to Census Bureau estimates, there were 53,364 people 100 years or older living in the United States. Put another way, out of every 10,000 people, 1.73 live to be 100 years. Still, the United States lags behind other developed countries. For example, for every 10,000 people, there are 1.92 people who reach the age of 100 in Sweden, 1.95 in the United Kingdom, and 2.70 in France. Japan boasts the highest rate of centenarians – about twice the U.S. rate at 3.43 per 10,000 people.

Some other fun facts about centenarians:

  • People who live to age 100, live an average of 2.4 more years
  • In 2010, 62.5% of centenarians were aged 100-101 years, while 92% were aged 100 to 104 years
  • In 2010, there were 330 “super centenarians” – people 110 years or older – living in the United States.
  • Women are far more likely to reach the century mark than are men. In 2010, nearly 83% of people 100 years or older were women
  • In 2010, 82.5% of centenarians were white
  • Slightly more than one third of people 100 years or older lived alone in their own home in 2010


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2013) QuickStats: Number of Deaths Among Centenarians and Percentage Among All Deaths, by Sex – United States, 1980-2010. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. 62(46);941 http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6246a9.htm?s_cid=mm6246a9_e

Meyer, J. (2012, December). Centenarians: 2010. 2010 Special Census Reports. C2010SR-03. Retrieved from http://www.census.gov/prod/cen2010/reports/c2010sr-03.pdf

Image credit: <a href='http://www.123rf.com/photo_18064667_retired-elderly-people-and-free-time...'>diego_cervo / 123RF Stock Photo</a>