healthHealth and Medicine

This Is What Americans Have Been Dying Of Over The Past 35 Years


Ben Taub

Freelance Writer

clockDec 14 2016, 17:22 UTC

Death shows no signs of going out of fashion in the US. Stokkete/Shutterstock

There are a million and one things out there that can kill you, and one day one of them will, so the best thing to do is to just stop worrying about it and live in the moment. Failing that, you could take a look at a study that was published yesterday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, which reveals how trends in causes of death have changed in each US county over the past three and a half decades, giving you a good idea of what you should be wary of.

Analyzing data from the National Vital Statistics System, the study authors found almost 80.5 million registered deaths between January 1, 1980 and December 31, 2014. They then divided these up by cause of death in order to discover the 21 most common killers across the country during this period.


By 2014, cardiovascular disease had become the most common source of mortality, responsible for 147 deaths per 100,000 nationwide. When looking at how this varied across 3,110 different counties, the researchers found that this particular cause of death was most prevalent along the southern half of the Mississippi River.

Self-harm and interpersonal violence tended to kill more people in southwestern counties, although suicide also increased by 131 percent in Kusilvak, Alaska, over the course of the study period – more than any other county in the US.

Mortality rates due to mental disorders and substance abuse increased in more than 99 percent of counties between 1980 and 2014, and by 188 percent across the country. The biggest jumps came in Clermont County, Ohio, and Boone County, West Virginia, which saw staggering rises of 2,206 percent and 2,030 percent respectively.


Owsley County, Kentucky, experienced a 46 percent increase in cancer deaths across this period, while Aleutians East Borough in Alaska saw a 58 percent decrease, making these the counties with the greatest rise and drop in cancer mortalities in the US.

healthHealth and Medicine
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  • cancer,

  • death,

  • cardiovascular disease,

  • suicide,

  • murder,

  • mortality rate,

  • substance abuse,

  • mental disorder