Death Rates for 5 of 6 Leading Diseases Slowed From 1969-2013

Laura Joszt

While the age-standardized death rate for all causes of death combined, as well as heart disease, cancer, stroke, unintentional injuries, and diabetes, have slowed from 1969 to 2013, the rate for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) actually increased during this period, according to a study published in JAMA.
The researchers analyzed data from the US National Vital Statistics System of the National Center for Health Statistics of the CDC from 1969 through 2013 to examine trends in deaths in the US for all causes and for the 6 leading causes: heart disease, stroke, cancer, unintentional injuries, COPD, and diabetes.
“A systematic and comprehensive evaluation of long-term trends in mortality is important for health planning and priority setting and for identifying modifiable factors that may contribute to the trends,” the authors wrote.
Between 1969 and 2013, there was a 42.9% reduction in the age-standardized death rate for all causes, which is an annual decrease of 1.3%, according to the analysis. However, the rate leveled during the 2010 to 2013 period.
From 1969 to 2013, the rate of death decreased 77% for stroke, 67.5% for heart disease; 39.8% for unintentional injuries, 17.9% for cancer, and 16.5% for diabetes. During the same period, the death rate for COPD increased 100.6% from 21 deaths per 100,000 people to 42.2 deaths per 100,000.
The researchers note that the progress against heart disease and stroke can be attributed to improved control of hypertension and hyperlipidemia, as well as smoking cessation and improved medical treatment. They add that further disease-specific studies are needed in order to better investigate these trends.
“Regardless of the changes in death rates, the increasing numbers of old persons in the United States and growth of the US population will pose a considerable challenge for health care delivery in the coming decades, in view of the shortage of primary care physicians and geriatricians, increasing cost of health care, and the lag between healthy life and life expectancies,” the authors concluded.
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