Death Map: What’s Really Killing Americans

Posted May 15th, 2015 at 2:58 pm (UTC-4)

(AP Photo)

(AP Photo)

Heart disease and cancer are the most common killers in the United States but a new map sheds more light on exactly what’s killing Americans in each of the 50 states.

Using statistics from 2001 to 2010, the map highlights the “most distinctive” causes of death, rather than what kills the most people. A ‘distinctive’ cause of death is when the rate is higher compared to the national average.

The map is “a somewhat of a colorful and provocative way of starting some conversations and highlighting some unusual things that are going on,” study co-author Francis Boscoe told LiveScience.

The flu was the most distinctive cause of death in Maine, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming. In mining states like Kentucky, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, lung diseases caused by inhaling certain dusts were the most distinctive causes of death.

Dying in a plane or boat accident was the most distinctive cause of death in Alaska and Idaho, while sepsis was the most distinctive cause of death in New Jersey. The most distinctive cause of death in New York and Connecticut was inflammatory diseases of pelvic organs.

Possibly the most surprising statistic comes from Nevada, New Mexico and Oregon, where deaths caused by law enforcement officers — not including legal executions — were the most distinctive cause of death in those states, meaning “death by police officer” occurred in those states at a higher rate compared to the national average.

The numbers of “distinctive” deaths vary greatly. For example, 15,000 people in Florida died of HIV,  the most distinctive cause of death there. Meanwhile, there were 22 deaths from syphilis, the most distinctive cause of death in Louisiana.death-map

27 responses to “Death Map: What’s Really Killing Americans”

  1. Wayne says:

    What time period does this article – map cover ???

    • Dora Mekouar says:

      Hi Wayne – The map above is based on data from the List of 133 Selected Causes of Death published by the National Center for Health Statistics and the Centers for Disease Control data from 2001 to 2010.

  2. kitty finnigan says:

    What a great map you have made. I love it. I’m going to share it with everyone. Thanks.

  3. Bill Heston says:

    It seems odd that this article would list “deaths caused by law enforcement officers” and not death by “felonious assault”.

    • Daniel says:

      Until they start charging officers with felonious assault for murdering U.S. citizens, it’s just deaths caused by law enforcement officers.

  4. TheOneLaw says:

    I seriously enjoyed my years in New Mexico, Nevada, and Oregon,
    but that was a very long time ago.
    So sad to hear that ‘death by government’ has become the deadliest feature of life in those regions.
    As for nephrotic and influenza, that was always a big thing in Wyoming and ND.
    And who would have known, tuberculosis was never that big a problem when I was growing up

    cheers from a tropical island

  5. Robert Borselli says:

    This article has been kicking around the Internet all weekend, but thank you for adding the most ridiculous headline to what is essentially a non-story. Most of the other websites have just used this as click bait.

    What is really killing us, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2015) are:

    at number one, heart disease followed by cancer, chronic lower respiratory diseases, accidents, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, influenza and pneumonia, nephritis, and suicide at number 10.

    I understand that VOX is more a propaganda arm of the United States government than an actual news source, and as such has no journalistic standards; indeed has no need of any to complete its mission, but I just had to comment on this.

    • Daniel says:

      I find it amusing when people blatantly smear their own individual biases on mundane pieces of information. This article and map don’t talk about the leading causes of death in America, just statistical outliers in each state.

      • bob says:

        Did you read the headline genius? How is 22 people dying of syphilis in one state 10 years statistically relevant to “What is really killing Americans”

        • Daniel says:

          Did you read the article? It’s pretty simple. They teach it to you in elementary school. Reading can be fun. If you would have read the article it could have explained all your ignorance.

  6. What on earth is Law enforcement intervention and how does that make the main cause of death. Some are right on from studies I have read.

  7. Dougsinc says:

    Bill Heston’s comment, ‘It seems odd that this article would list “deaths caused by law enforcement officers” and not death by “felonious assault”.’ raises a question regarding the selection of which distinctive cause of death is displayed for a given state. By definition, half the states, on average, will be above the national average on any measurement, and, each state will be distinctive on several measurements. Oregon, for example, might also be distinctive for deaths related to extreme sports.
    So, why is “death by cop” displayed for those three states? Why is no state shown as the most distinctive for “death by felonious assault”?

    Anyway, interesting reading, thanks.


    • Daniel says:

      Death by felonious assault isn’t a cause of death as listed by the CDC so Bill Heston’s comment is invalid and uninformed. This would be broken down by the CDC to be either Assault by discharge of a firearm or Assault by other unspecified means.

      Also, in your example of Oregon, you use hypotheticals of what might be. The author of the survey on the other hand has taken distinctive outliers for each state. Slightly above average is not a distinctive outlier. As an example, Oklahoma actually did account for 24% of all “other acute ischemic heart diseases” despite being only 1% of the population. That’s a distinctive outlier.

  8. Cecil Bullard, MD says:

    Leaving cause of death in California is listed as hyperplasia of the prostate. This is a benign condition that is usually not fatal and I was wondering if they really meant prostate cancer?

  9. Paul from Long Island says:

    The map shows most distinctive causes of death, not leading causes.

  10. CDEchterling says:

    This is NOT listing the leading cause of death in a state. It is listing the cause of death that is significantly above average. Heart desease, cancer etc. may be the main causes of death in a state, but a given state may have a significant higher rate of deaths by tuberculosis (for example) than the other states.

  11. cd hutchins says:

    Thank you for mentioning the death by legal intervention in Oregon, Nevada and New Mexico. I live in Oregon and was shocked to see that Oregon topped the list for this cause. In light of Ferguson, in light of Baltimore, in light of the recent rash of deaths by police, I don’t understand why this has not received more media coverage. The media prefers to focus on the minuscule (22) syphilis deaths in Louisiana, instead. Time for some investigative reporting on the 110 deaths by legal intervention in Oregon!

  12. skeptonomist says:

    This is interesting, but what most people would probably be interested in is avoidable causes of death, not the most “distinctive”. I am afraid that the fact that prostate hyperplasia is the most “distinctive” in California does not convey much useful information. In a way, the statistical approach seems to be filtering out information that may be useful – that is information about the most common causes of death. Should we really care if our causes of death are shared with other states?

  13. skeptonomist says:

    The link also has a map for “mortality from among the top 10 causes of death”. That might be more interesting and useful. Without looking in detail at the methodology of the “distinctive” map, I suspect that it does not take much account of total numbers – that is what may make a state distinctive may not amount to many actual deaths.

  14. Curious says:

    This article is interesting. Could you do a follow up of life statistic tables for each state with gender and race break outs?

  15. SEQUELAE says:

    I thought the map was the stupidest most misrepresented item i’d seen published this week until I saw this article’s title. The author didn’t realize how narrow and basically useless the data is for these purposes. I would refer everyone to item “W” on the map as an example.

  16. Ben says:

    Back to Bill Heston; he is correct because “death by police officer” cannot be considered out of the context of the shootngs. It goes without saying but I’ll say anyway that 100% of cases of “death by police officer” are investigated and statistically near-100% are justified and necessary in context of a provocation such as felonious assault. Heston’s interpretation is needed because that association is left out.

    It is identical to remindiing us that Kentucky, Pennsylvania and West Virginia are mining states when noticing that lung diseases are distinctive there. See the classic blockbuster best-seller ‘How to Lie With Statistics’, 1954 by Huff, available free for download.

  17. Jim says:

    The best thing about this article is the comments. I weep for American literacy. We have become a country of idiots!

    • Mariea says:

      I laughed until I cried.

    • Oscar D. says:

      Shalom! This is the ONLY COMMENT I REPLIED TO, and here’s why. When someone makes me laugh, I find it a necessary thing to let them know what they’ve done for me… in this case, compared to what an entire article, and all the other comments had not done. So, I sincerely thank you for your sense of humor, and willingness to share with others! Laughing is so seriously necessary for me, I suffer debilitating chronic lumbar pain (post operative level type) and often refer myself, to daily major sessions of deep belly laughter, and also professional singing, my passion, and major talent, as diversions from pain. Although, laughter is different from all other forms of expression, because I can control it to a large extent, and my rule of thumb is, when I’m in pain, NOT to hinder my reaction, but put myself in the frame of reference, telling myself, this is a deeply funny, and the source I use, I already know its effect within my heart, so I cut loose and hoot, woot and cackle! Laughter is like a medicine, making the heart cheerful, uplifted, and the benefit; exchanging pain for JOY! After 22+ years of chronic pain, I’ve learned the secret to continuing life with a measure of happiness and being upright on this planet… LAUGH, AND OFTEN, TOO!

  18. EB says:

    What’s really killing americans in each state? Not the reasons listed, the article doesn’t support the title, just the opposite. I don’t find the information totally irrelevant, it’s somewhat interesting, if it wasn’t for the misleading title. I don’t know whether the author or the editor is at fault, but poor journalism.

  19. P2 says:

    This article should be titled ” the most distinctive cause of death in each state” if I understand what you are saying Daniel. The title infers that there these death categories are killing Americans at significant levels which does not appear to be true.

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