Avoidable Mortality

Home Page >> V. Key Health Policy Issues >> A. Burden of Illness >> Avoidable Mortality

Total Deaths, by Cause

  • CDC. Leading Causes of Death, 1900-1998
  • CDC. History of the Statistical Classification of Diseases and Causes of Death (2011)
  • CDC. U.S. Standard Certificate of Death
  • J. Michael McGinnis and William H. Foege. Actual Causes of Death in the United States. Journal of the American Medical Association November 10, 1993; 270 (18): 2207-2212. Provides 1990 estimates of leading causes of death based on underlying determinants (e.g., tobacco, diet/inactivity) rather than disease classification.
  • C. Conover. Leading Cause of Preventable Deaths, 1993. Duke University, Center for Health Policy. Adds additional causes of preventable death such as hospital deaths due to negligence and updates figures to 1993.
  • Ali H. Mokdad; James S. Marks; Donna F. Stroup; Julie L. Gerberding. Actual Causes of Death in the United States, 2000 JAMA. 2004;291(10):1238-1245. This updates to McGinnis/Foege estimates to 2000. The leading causes of death in 2000 were tobacco (435 000 deaths; 18.1% of total US deaths), poor diet andphysical inactivity (400 000 deaths; 16.6%), and alcoholconsumption (85 000 deaths; 3.5%). Other actual causesof death were microbial agents (75 000), toxic agents (55 000),motor vehicle crashes (43 000), incidents involving firearms(29 000), sexual behaviors (20 000), and illicit use of drugs (17 000).

Major Causes of Avoidable Deaths

  • Medical Errors. A 2010 report on medical errors by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Office of Inspector General, found that 1 in 7 inpatients (14.3%) on Medicare suffered an adverse event, with 1 in 4 (25%) suffering some form of harm; this includes 1.6 million adverse events annually, which contributed to approximately 180, 000 deaths (11.3%) that year. Office of the Inspector General. Adverse Events in Hospitals: National Incidence Among Medicare Beneficiaries. Washington, DC: Department of Health and Human Services; 2010. DHHS publication OEI-06-09-00090.

Annual and Lifetime Risk of Death

  • Political CalculationsThe Odds of Dying in the U.S. Annual and lifetime risk of death in U.S. for 2 dozen different types of accident or injury.
  • Political CalculationsThe Odds of Dying, Again!  Annual risk of death in U.S. for 3 dozen different causes.
  • Political Calculations. Probability of living to 100 calculator.
  • DeathRiskRankings.org (Carnegie Mellon University) calculates your risk of dying in the next year and allows you to compare that risk to others in the world.
  • Life and Death Decisions (Stanford University). Slide show contains a number of mortality risks, expressed in micromorts (chance of death per million), including one listing ~20 activities that increase annual death risk by 1 micromort.

Life Expectancy

  • International Estimates
  • U.S. Estimates
    • Social Security Administration. Period Life Expectancy, 1940-2090. Period life expectancy is calculated assuming that everyone alive today experiences the same probability of death as their counterparts at older ages, i.e., that when today’s infants reach age 70, for example, they will experience the same death rate as today’s 70-year olds. Because of constant gains in life expectancy over time, this produces a conservative estimate of actual life expectancy.
    • Social Security AdministrationCohort Life Expectancy, 1940-2090. Cohort life expectancy is calculated based on the actual experience for a cohort. Cohort life expectancy for U.S. males born 1940 is about 9 years longer than period life expectancy for U.S. males born that year.
    • Social Security’s Flawed Forecasting. The method used by Social Security underestimates life expectancy by amounts ranging from a little over one half year to more than 19 months. Using more accurate projections, the Social Security Trust Fund will be exhausted 2 years earlier than officially forecast. The statisticians have made their methods, calculations and software available online at j.mp/SSecurityso that others can replicate or improve such forecasts.
    • Congressional Budget Office. Table 1 shows how how expectancy has increased in the U.S. (years per decade) for selected periods between 1870-2010.
  • Life Expectancy Calculators
    • Life Expectancy Calculator. This program calculates life expectancy based on age, sex, race, country of residence, lifelong smoking status, height/weight (by calculating the body mass index [BMI], a measure of obesity), education, exercise, and lifelong alcohol usage. It does not account for medical conditions, diseases, or injuries.
    • Living to 100 Life Expectancy Calculator. The calculator asks you 40 quick questions related to your health and family history, and takes about 10 minutes to complete.
    • RealAge (Mehmet Oz, MD). Calculates biological age based on demographics, family history and lifestyle. The most extreme ranges that result are about 19 years younger, thanks to super-healthy habits, and 37 years older, the result of smoking and poorly managing multiple health problems.
    • Vitality Compass. Calculates biological age, overall life expectancy, healthy life expectancy, and years gaining/losing due to health habits.
    • Life expectancy for selected chronic diseases. Includes links to literature on life expectancy for cerebral palsy (CP), Vegetative State (VS), Minimally Conscious State (MCS), and Locked-In Syndrome (LIS), traumatic brain injury (TBI), spinal cord injury (SCI), autism, Down Syndrome, developmentally disabled), and epilepsy.

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