U.S. deaths surpassed 2.5 million for the first time last year, reflecting the nation's growing and aging population.
The increase of about 45,000 more deaths than in 2010 was not surprising. The annual number of deaths has been generally rising for decades as the population has swelled.
"If you have an older population, of course you have more deaths," said Qian Cai, a University of Virginia demographer who studies population trends. "That doesn't mean the population is less healthy or less vital."
Before last year, the largest number of deaths was 2.47 million in 2008. The number of deaths can jump up or down from year to year, depending on whether there was a bad flu season or other factors.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released the report Wednesday. It's drawn from a review of most death certificates from last year.
The report found that the rate of deaths per 100,000 people actually dropped to an all-time low. That was offset by the fact that there are so many Americans — about 314 million.