For the most part, the things that kill Americans are fairly consistent from state to state. But as this new map by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention clearly shows, not all states are equal when it comes to certain risks.

Heart disease, cancer, stroke, and diabetes are among the leading causes of death in the United States. This holds true whether you live in Texas or New Hampshire. But the same can’t be said for all causes of mortality; some states have a “distinctive” cause of death that sets them apart from other states.


To determine this, researchers from the CDC took a list of 136 causes of death (from 2001-2010), and, after creating an estimate of death from each cause for all 50 states, they divided that by the rate of death from the particular cause in the U.S. as a whole. This allowed the researchers to “present a more nuanced view of mortality variation within the United States than what can be seen by using only the 10 most common causes of death.”

In all, 23 different causes of death were identified. The most common was “other and unspecified acute lower respiratory infections,” which was documented in six states, namely Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Nebraska, Ohio, and Wisconsin.

Here are some other notable findings:

  • HIV, tuberculosis, and syphilis are the “distinctive causes” of death in Florida, Texas, and Louisiana respectively
  • Michigan boasted the largest number of deaths mapped at 37,292 from atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease
  • “Accidental discharge of firearms” is the distinctive cause of death in both Alabama and Tennessee
  • Hyperplasia of prostate (i.e. enlargement of the prostate) is the distinctive cause of death in California, whereas inflammatory diseases of female pelvic organs is distinctive to New York
  • Not all findings made sense — e.g., septicemia in New Jersey and deaths by “legal intervention” in three Western states
  • But some causes of mortality did make sense, like influenza in some northern states, pneumoconioses in coal-mining states, and air and water accidents in Alaska and Idaho

According to the CDC, a limitation of this map is that

it depicts only 1 distinctive cause of death for each state. All of these were significantly higher than the national rate, but there were many others also significantly higher than the national rate that were not mapped. The map is also predisposed to showing rare causes of death — for 22 of the states, the total number of deaths mapped was under 100. Using broader cause-of-death categories or requiring a higher threshold for the number of deaths would result in a different map. These limitations are characteristic of maps generally and are why these maps are best regarded as snapshots and not comprehensive statistical summaries.


That said, it’s quite interesting to think about how geographical, environmental, social, and cultural factors give rise to health risks unique to each state.

Source: CDC

[Via Benchmark Reporter]


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