U.S. life expectancy is continuing to increase, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Overall U.S. life expectancy at birth rose to 78.1 years in 2006, up 0.3 years from the 2005 average, according to CDC researchers.

Experts are attributing the increase to improvements in safety measures and in medical technology, and in efforts by Americans to take better care of themselves.

“Baby boomers are concerned about their future,” says Jack Luff, an actuary at the Society of Actuaries, Schaumburg, Ill. “They are used to having a good lifestyle and are looking to continue that lifestyle into retirement.”

Prevention, treatment and cures for sicknesses such as high blood pressure and certain types of cancer also have added to the average life expectancy, says Steve Schreiber, an actuary at Milliman Inc., Seattle.

Age-adjusted death rates associated with 11 of the 15 leading causes of death dropped significantly between 2005 and 20006, researchers say.

CDC researchers say life expectancy for men ages 60 to 70 increased by about 0.23 years, and that life expectancy increased 0.1 years for men ages 70 to 100.

Life expectancy increased 0.27 years for women ages 60 to 70, and 0.18 years for women in the 70-100 age group.

Traditionally, women older than 65 have been twice as likely as older men to need nursing home care.

“Increased life expectancy poses an increased threat to Social Security and Medicare but is an opportunity for private sectors in the insurance industry to market lifetime products such as long term care, annuities, or a combination of both,” Schreiber says.

Although there are concerns about obesity and diabetes affecting the average life expectancy, there are no signs in the data that those factors are going to stop improvement in life expectancy, Luff says.

The CDC report also covers topics such as causes of death, infant mortality and life expectancy classified by race.