Life expectancy has declined slightly, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Life expectancy at birth dropped to 77.8 years in 2008, from 77.9 years in 2007.Life expectancy falls

Life expectancy dropped by an average of a little more than a month for both men and women, according to the CDC.

CDC analysts based the mortality data from information from death certificates reported to the National Center for Health Statistics from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories.

Life expectancy for black males increased to 70.2 years, from 70, and the life expectancy gap between the white and black populations fell to 4.6 years, from 4.8 years in 2007.

The age-adjusted death rate from stroke fell 3.8%, and stroke slipped to fourth place as a cause of death in the United States. Up until 2008, stroke had been third leading cause of death in the United States for decades.

The age-adjusted death rate for chronic lower respiratory disease increased by 7.8%, but some of that increase may be due to a change in World Health Organization rules for classifying the cause of death, officials say.

Heart disease and cancer continued to be the two leading causes of death, accounting for 48% of all U.S. deaths in 2008.

- Trevor Thomas