The Top Causes of Excess Mortality in the US

Learn how heart disease, socioeconomic status and more affects your mortality

Heart disease is the No. 1 killer in America.
Heart disease is the No. 1 killer in America. SPRINGER MEDIZIN/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY/Getty Images

Excess mortality is the number of deaths, or mortality, caused by a specific disease, condition, or exposure to harmful circumstances such as radiation, environmental chemicals, or natural disaster. It's a measure of the deaths which occurred over and above the regular death rate that would be predicted (in the absence of that negative defined circumstance) for a given population.

Top Causes of Excess Mortality in the US

According to the World Health Organization, excess mortality can be expressed as a mortality rate — which is the risk of dying from that condition in a specific population — or a total number of excess deaths.

The following causes are major factors for excess mortality in this country:

Heart Disease

Heart disease is the leading cause of excess mortality in many cities in the US. Though rates have been declining year over year. It remains the No. 1 killer of men and women in the United States. The CDC reports about 610,000 people die of heart disease in the United States every year — that’s 1 in every 4 deaths.

Socioeconomic Status

Socioeconomic status is an avoidable factor for excess mortality. Though who have a higher income, more education, or those who work have a longer lifespan than those with a lower socio-economic status.

Inner-City Dwelling

People living in poverty stricken urban areas die sooner than their poor counterparts in rural areas. A study in the American Journal of Public Health found rehabilitating housing may improve the conditions and lessen the excess mortality in urban areas.

Access to healthcare is also a contributing factor to excess mortality in inner-city areas.

Cancer

Heart disease and cancer combined represent over 50% of premature deaths making it a massive source of excess mortality.

Murder/Suicide

While murder in impoverished community bears greatly on excess mortality, when paired with the national rates of suicide, accounts for a great number of premature deaths.

Many suicide attempts are due to alcohol and drug abusers, as well as those suffering with mental health issues.

Physical Inactivity

Given the prevalence of chronic diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease, and the fact that physical inactivity are risk factors for these chronic diseases, lack of exercise is a source of excess mortality in the U.S.

Body Mass Index (BMI)

To go along with physical inactivity, the three chronic diseases mentioned above are more prevalent in people who have a BMI beyond normal weight. That is, those who are overweight, obese, or morbidly obese have excess mortality when compared to those of normal weight.

Divorce and Separation

Surprisingly, uncoupled people have excess mortality compared to married people who live longer. However, this protective factor is more pronounced for men as single women have a much smaller rate of excess mortality than married women.

There are other factors of excess mortality including traffic accidents, social support indicators and the like, but the above are the most widely researched and established contributors to excess mortality.

Sources

Excess Mortality. World Health Organization Glossary of Humanitarian Terms. Accessed March 14, 2013.

Haentjens P, Magaziner J, Colón-Emeric CS, Vanderschueren D, Milisen K, Velkeniers B, Boonen S. "Meta-analysis: excess mortality after hip fracture among older women and men." Ann Intern Med. 2010 Mar 16;152(6):380-90.

Arline T. Geronimus, John Bound, Cynthia G. Colen, Lori Barer Ingber, Tara Shochet. Urban/Rural Differences in Excess Mortality Among High Poverty Populations: Evidence from the Harlem Health Survey and Pitt County. Economic Research Initiative on the Uninsured Working Paper Series.

Continue Reading