Each year, about 2.7 million Americans pass away for various reasons ranging from unintentional injuries to more chronic illnesses such as cancer or diabetes.
While death is not always an easy topic to discuss, it’s also something that is important to put into perspective. Better understanding the data around death can help us on a personal level, while also revealing where more resources may be needed at a more societal level.
NOTHING CERTAIN BUT DEATH AND TAXES
Over the time period shown, heart disease was the most significant cause of death with a toll of 1,270,000 lives in 2016.
Meanwhile, cancer consistently ranks as the second most common cause of death in the United States, with other causes such as chronic lower respiratory disease (CLRD), stroke, and unintentional injuries often ranking as the #3 to #5 causes.
Here is how the top 10 causes of death have changed between 1999-2016:
|Cause||1999 Deaths||2016 Deaths||Change over time|
|Chronic Lower Respiratory Disease (CLRD)||248,000||309,000||+24.6%|
Note: Values rounded up to the nearest thousand, and are in absolute terms (i.e. not adjusted to be per capita)
As an interesting sidenote, the perceptions that the general public and media headlines have about death can be quite separated from reality.
For example, one set of data shows that The Guardian and the New York Times run headlines on cancer roughly six times more often than headlines on heart disease, despite heart disease actually being a more common cause of death.
WHERE DO AMERICANS SPEND THEIR LAST DAYS?
To further understand healthcare trends, it’s also worth looking at where Americans are spending their final days. Data here again comes from the CDC, and it’s been charted out by Reddit user academiaadvice:
The two most obvious trends here are the increase in deaths at home along with a rise in hospice care. Simultaneously, deaths in a hospitals – especially in emergency settings – are on the decline.
While we don’t always get to choose where we die, these trends partially reflect the fact that more Americans would rather spend their final days in a more familiar setting.