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What Was the Leading Cause of Death in 2015?

DEC 10, 2016 | KRISTI ROSA
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) recently released a report on mortality in the United States, providing the public with insight into life expectancy, age-adjusted death rates pertaining to race/ethnicity and sex, and the leading causes of death for adults and infants. A number of infectious diseases remained on the list among the top 10 leading causes.

According to the NCHS, in 2015, the estimated life expectancy—what they define as “the expected average number of years of life remaining at a given age”—at time of birth for the overall United States population was 78.8 years; a drop from 78.9 years in 2014. This is the first reported decrease in life expectancy in more than two decades. In 1993, life expectancy dropped from 75.8 years in 1992 to 75.5 years in 1993. This decrease in life expectancy was noted in both sexes; however, the analysis showed a decrease of 0.2 years (from 76.5 in 2014 to 76.3 last year) in men, whereas for females, it showed a decrease of 0.1 years (from 81.3 in 2014 to 81.2 last year). The NCHS reported that overall, females had a higher life expectancy than their male counterparts and the report indicates that the difference in life expectancy between the sexes actually increased by 0.1 years (4.8 years to 4.9 years’ difference) from 2014 to 2015.

Despite this recent decrease, life expectancy is still higher than what had been estimated a decade ago (77.4 years).

The NCHS also includes “age-adjusted death rates,” which the authors noted as being incredibly useful “when comparing different populations because they remove the potential bias that can occur when the populations being compared have different age structures.” In their comparative analysis, they found that overall, the age-adjusted death rate for the total US population increased by 1.2% from 2014 (724.6 per 100,000 standard population) to 2015 (733.1 per 100,000 standard population).

The authors found that the race/ethnicity/sex groups that experienced increases in these death rates consisted of non-Hispanic black males (0.9%), non-Hispanic white males (1.0%), and non-Hispanic white females (1.6%). In addition, the authors reported that rates pertaining to non-Hispanic black females, Hispanic females, and Hispanic males did not show significant changes from 2014 to 2015.

According to the report, heart disease still tops the list of leading causes of death in the United States, as it has for the past decade, with “cancer, chronic lower respiratory diseases, unintentional injuries, strokes, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, influenza and pneumonia, kidney disease, and suicide” also making the top 10 list for 2015; all ten of these causes of death made the list in 2014, as well. In 2015, these causes were accountable for a whopping 74.2% of total US deaths. Chronic lower respiratory diseases, influenza, and pneumonia have made the top 10 list of leading causes of death for at least a decade, with chronic lower respiratory diseases taking either the third or fourth spot on the list and influenza and pneumonia remaining in the eighth spot, with the exception of 2010, where it ranked ninth on the list.

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