Most of us want to live healtier and maybe even longer lives . This leads to the question of why are human dying? If we can identify and then tackle those problems, we may achieved remarkable longevity. In this post, we will investigate the leading causes of death in the United States.


Death rate has substantially decreased in the United States.

By tracking death rate and life expectancy in the US over time, it's astonishing to see how much death rate has been reduced since 1900. In contrast, Americans also doubled their life expectancy.


Interestingly, females have lower death rate and longer life expectancy than males as shown below:


And here is a plausible reason why: (image credit: WYLD_STALLYNS)


What are the leading causes of death?

2013 is the most recent data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). As shown in the following figure, heart disease and cancer top the list as leading causes of death in the US. Accidents are the No. 1 non-disease cause of death and rank No. 4 overall. So, be careful out there!

Next, let track the top 5 leading causes of death and see how they've changed over time.

The death rate for heart disease has decreased considerably. Although to a less extent, the death rates for cancer, stroke, and CLRD have also deceased since 1999. However, the death rate for accidents has not gone down, if not inceased. Hopefully, technological advances such as driverless car could help us live safer lives.


In modern society, more and more people are suffering from diseases such as Alzheimer's disease and diabetes, and we seem to live more stressful lives. Indeed, the death rates for Alzheimer's disease and suicide have increased oveer the years. However, the death rate for diabetes has decread since around 2005, probably thanks to technologies that allow patients to constantly monitor their blood sugar levels and give themselves insulin shots more easily. 


Death Rates by State

Next, we compare the death rates between individual states, as they differ dramatically from each other in terms of economy, education, healthcare system, environment et al. 


As we can see that southern states such as Mississippi have the highest death rates in the US. Consistently, those states also have the highest death rates for diseases such as cancer as shown below. Interestingly, Utah has one of the lowest death rates for cancer.


Let's also have a look at the death rates for two non-diseases causes: accidents and suicide. As shown below, residents in New York and California are least likely to get killed by accidents, and they are also not likely to commit suicide. In contast, Alaska, Montana, Utah and its neighboring states have high death rates for suicide.


Do death rates correlate with states economy?

Finally, we test the hypothesis whether death rates are correlated with states economical growth. We start off by visualizing the per capita real GDP of each individual state.


It seems that the per capita real GDP of each state negatively correlates with its death rate. Thus, we explore this further by calculating the correlation between GDP and death rates for various causes. If the value is close to 1, it means that the two variables are positivey correlated. In contrast, if the correlation is close to -1, it means the two variables are negatively correlated. Indeed, GPD is negatively associated with most of the leading causes of death. Notably, GDP seems to be positively correlated with death rate for homicide. It is possible that robbery rate is higher in wealthier states.



By studying the death rates in the United States we have learned that:

  1. The death rates in the US has been reduced quite a lot, whereas the life expectancy almost has doubled since 1900.

  2. Heart disease and cancer are the two predominant causes of death in the US. Furthermore, the death rates for Alzheimer's disease and suicide has been increasing in recent years.

  3. Death rates vary between different states and may be inversely correlated with the state economic growth in many, but not all cases.