How Will You Die? Depends on Where You Live

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Study finds a wide disparity of health outcomes by location.

Where you live is a determining factor in how you will die.

That’s among the stark takeaways of a new study out of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington. The findings were published Tuesday in the medical journal JAMA.

As lead study author Laura Dwyer-Lindgren summarizes in a statement issued by the IHME:

“While the leading causes of death are similar across counties, we found massive disparities in the rates at which people are dying among causes and communities.”

For the study, researchers examined how mortality rates for various causes of death changed in every U.S. county from 1980 to 2014. This provided what they describe as “the most comprehensive view to date of how Americans die.”

In the nation as a whole, heart disease accounted for more deaths than any other cause in 2014. Cancers accounted for the greatest number of years of life lost to early death.

For other diseases and injuries, mortality rates vary significantly by county. For example, the study revealed that:

  • The counties with the highest and the lowest mortality rates from cirrhosis and other liver diseases were both in South Dakota: Oglala Lakota County (193 deaths per 100,000 people) and Lincoln County (7 deaths per 100,000 people).
  • About half of counties saw increases in mortality rates from suicide and violence, while the other half saw decreases. Kusilvak Census Area in Alaska saw the steepest increase, rising by 131 percent. New York County, New York, saw the steepest decrease, falling by 72 percent.
  • Mortality rates from alcohol and drug abuse and from mental health disorders varied from a 2,206 percent increase in Clermont County, Ohio, to a 51 percent decrease in Aleutians East Borough, Aleutians West Census Area, Alaska.

To learn more about the causes of death for residents of your county, check out the IHME’s county-level interactive map or directory.

Do you worry about how where you live might impact your health? Sound off by commenting below or on our Facebook page.

Stacy Johnson

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