US death rates rise slightly

BMJ 2016; 353 doi: (Published 02 June 2016) Cite this as: BMJ 2016;353:i3122
  1. Michael McCarthy
  1. Seattle

After a decade of steady decline, the death rates in the United States rose slightly last year, according to preliminary data reported by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).1

According to the report from the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics, both the crude and age adjusted death rates for all causes in 2015 were higher than in 2014: the crude death rate for all causes rose from 824 to 841 per 100 000 population, and the age adjusted death rate rose from 723 to 730 per 100 000.

Farida Ahmad, mortality surveillance lead for the National Center for Health Statistics, said that the rise was surprising but not necessarily alarming.“It’s a slight increase; not a major increase—not something you need to sound alarms bells about,” she said.

Similar increases were seen in 2005 and in 1993, but after each rise the decline in the death rate continued, Ahmad said.

Death rates rose for a number of conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease, chronic liver disease, chronic lower respiratory diseases, hypertension, stroke, homicide, suicide, firearm related deaths, unintentional injury, and drug overdose. These trends, however, were not new, Ahmad said: what was different was that there was no significant decline in deaths from heart disease.

Death rates for heart disease had been declining steadily over recent years and because heart disease made up such a large proportion of deaths, the decline had been offsetting the rise in the rates of other, less common, causes of death.

While the trends identified in the report “bear watching,” Ahmad said, their significance will be clearer when the final report comes out in December.


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