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What are the leading causes of death in the US?

Heart disease and cancer are still the reigning causes of death across the country.

Updated

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Every year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) records the number of deaths across the US — and the major diseases that Americans are dying from. We combed through this data to find the leading causes of death, as well as which conditions were different among men and women.

No one can predict the future, so consider putting an adequate life insurance policy in place in case you’re diagnosed with an unexpected illness.

Is coronavirus a leading cause of death in 2020?

It’s too soon to tell. Health organizations haven’t yet released 2020 data around the usual leading causes of death — like heart disease. But the Center for Disease Control & Prevention has confirmed the coronavirus isn’t the leading cause of death in the US.

However, COVID-19 is the leading cause of death per day, according to a new report by Dr. Maria Danilychev, a San Diego-based physician. Relying on CDC data, her research found the disease causes 1,970 deaths nationwide per day — more than heart disease and cancer.

Around 80% of coronavirus cases don’t become serious, according to Johns Hopkins. For context, the pandemic has a case fatality rate — or the number of reported deaths divided by reported cases — of around 6.8% globally, according to the latest report on April 19, 2020, from the World Health Organization. That fatality rate goes up to as high as 13% for seniors over the age of 65 and people with pre-existing health risks related to respiratory issues.

To learn more about COVID-19 cases across the US, see updated data from the CDC.

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The 10 leading causes of death in America

To crunch these numbers, we looked at the CDC’s latest mortality data released in 2020 and learned the top 10 leading causes of death didn’t change between 2017 and 2018. This means Americans are falling victim to the same diseases and health conditions year-after-year, and getting involved in a similar amount of accidents.

For both men and women, the leading causes of death were heart disease and cancer.

However, men had a higher incidence of chronic liver disease, cirrhosis and suicide, while more women died from septicemia. These differences aside, the list of common deaths was made up of the usual suspects, including stroke, diabetes and pneumonia.

These were the 10 leading causes of death in the US — and they accounted for 73.8% of all deaths across the country.

RankCause of deathTotal number of deaths
1Heart disease647,457
2Cancer599,108
3Accidents and unintentional injuries169,936
4Lung disease160,201
5Stroke146,383
6Alzheimer’s disease121,404
7Diabetes83,564
8Flu and pneumonia55,672
9Kidney disease50,633
10Suicide and intentional self-harm47,173

What are chronic lower respiratory diseases (CLRDs)?

CLRDs are conditions that affect the lungs, such as:

  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) — including emphysema and chronic bronchitis
  • Asthma
  • Pulmonary hypertension
  • Occupational lung diseases

While these diseases are typically associated with smoking, non-smokers can also contract them.

The top 10 causes of death for men

These were the leading causes of death among American men. As you’ll see, it’s fairly similar to the shared list — though more men died from liver disease than kidney disease.

RankCause of deathNumber of deaths
1Heart disease347,879
2Cancer315,147
3Accidents and unintentional injuries109,722
4Chronic lower respiratory diseases75,005
5Stroke61,645
6Diabetes46,302
7Alzheimer’s disease37,325
8Suicide and intentional self-harm36,782
9Flu and pneumonia26,558
10Chronic liver disease and cirrhosis26,451

The top 10 causes of death for women

As for American women, the incidence of stroke and Alzheimer’s disease was higher than that of men in 2018, and septicemia (aka blood poisoning) also made the list.

RankCause of deathNumber of deaths in 2018
1Heart disease299,578
2Cancer283,961
3Chronic lower respiratory diseases85,196
4Stroke84,738
5Alzheimer’s disease84,079
6Accidents and unintentional injuries60,214
7Diabetes37,262
8Flu and pneumonia29,114
9Kidney disease24,889
10Septicemia21,319

What’s the average life expectancy in America?

In good news, the average life expectancy for both men and women increased to 78.7 in 2018 — largely because the number of deaths from heart disease, cancer and accidents decreased that year.

How we collected this data

To learn about the leading causes of death among Americans, we turned to the CDC’s mortality data.

The CDC analyzes deaths and diseases each year, and published its most recent report in January 2020. The report focused on 2018, and we’ll update this page as new data is released.

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Bottom line

You may not know what’s going to happen in the future, but you can prepare for the unexpected by purchasing a life insurance policy. A good policy can protect your family financially if you pass away prematurely, and give you the peace of mind in knowing that your loved ones will be taken care of when you’re gone.

To get the best possible coverage at a premium you can afford, compare life insurance companies.

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