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Ten ways to die in Washington

Published by Steve Campion. Category: People, Uncategorized

Washington is a good place to live.  People inevitably die here, too.  In 2013, there were 51,264 deaths.  What were the leading causes?  Today we list the ten most common killers in the state and include some statistics putting them into context with other state and national averages.  (All stats are for 2013.)

The first two items on the list are far and away the deadliest.  Cancer and heart disease alone account for 43.8% of all deaths in Washington state.  Add Alzheimer’s at #3 (6.4% of the total) and you have a majority of all deaths tied to only three ailments.

Washington’s death rate from all causes is 735.3.  That means 735.3 people died for every 100,000 people in the population in the latest year for which statistics are available.  The national death rate for the same year was about 10.5% higher: 821.5 people per 100,000.  A glance through the statistics shows that West Virginia has the highest overall death rate in the nation (1178.0) and Alaska the lowest (543.7).   At the end of each entry below, we included the states with the highest and lowest death rates alongside the national and Washington rates.  Quick links to relevant Wikipedia pages are also provided.

1. Malignant neoplasms
Various forms of cancer make up the leading cause of death in Washington, accounting for 11,928 deaths (23.3% of the total) in 2013.   Despite it being Washington’s #1 killer and America’s #2, the state’s cancer death rate is still 7.5% lower than the national average.  Among the states, West Virginia has the highest rate of death from cancer and Utah has the lowest. (Wikipedia description)
Death rate: 171.1 in Washington. 185.0 in the United States. 254.4 in West Virginia — 102.4 in Utah.

2. Diseases of the heart
Cardiovascular diseases kill more Americans than any other cause, but it is only the second highest cause of death in Washington with a 22% lower death rate.  Still, 10,524 fatal cases of coronary heart disease and related conditions is enormously significant.  It kills more than three times as many people as #3 on Washington’s list. (Wikipedia description)
Death rate: 151.0 in Washington. 193.3 in the United States. 258.0 in Alabama — 96.0 in Alaska.

3. Alzheimer’s disease
Of all the ailments on this list, Alzheimer’s in Washington shows the sharpest disconnection with national averages. It is the state’s 3rd most common cause of death, but is only the 6th leading killer in America. Washington’s death rate from Alzheimer’s is 75% more than that of the country as a whole.  Only North Dakota and South Dakota have higher rates. (Wikipedia description)
Death rate: 47.0 in Washington. 26.8 in the United States. 50.2 in North Dakota — 9.8 in Alaska.

4. Chronic lower respiratory diseases
Asthma and various pulmonary diseases are slightly less common in Washington that the rest of the United States, where it is the #3 killer.  West Virginia’s death rate from this cause is twice that of Washington.
Death rate: 42.1 in Washington. 47.2 in the United States. 85.7 in West Virginia — 19.9 in Hawaii.

5. Accidents (unintentional injuries)
Washington is just below the national average in accidental deaths, which makes accidents the 5th most common cause of death in the state and 4th most common in the country.  Washington’s death rate due to motor vehicle accidents, by the way, is 7.7 per 100,000 people.   (Wikipedia description)
Death rate: 40.5 in Washington. 41.3 in the United States.  75.2 in West Virginia — 29.2 in Maryland.

6. Cerebrovascular diseases
Washington is in the midrange among states in regard to death from stroke and other diseases affecting blood supply to the brain.  The cause of death ranks 5th nationally. (Wikipedia description)
Death rate: 38.0 in Washington. 40.8 in the United States. 55.3 in Arkansas — 25.7 in Alaska.

7. Diabetes mellitus
Diabetes is the only item ranked the same on Washington’s list and the nation’s list: #7.  (Wikipedia description)
Death rate: 23.2 in Washington. 23.9 in the United States.  45.4 in West Virginia — 15.0 in Colorado.

8. Intentional self-harm (suicide)
Washingtonians commit suicide 13% more often than the national rate.  The other Washington (District of Columbia) has the lowest suicide death rate in the nation.  Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the United States as a whole.  FYI: Intentional harm to others — homicide — has a much lower 2.9 death rate in Washington and did not make this list. (Wikipedia description)
Death rate: 14.7 in Washington. 13.0 in the United States.  23.9 in Montana — 5.9 in Washington, DC.

9. Chronic liver disease and cirrhosis
Chronic liver disease can be caused by (among other things) hepatitis and alcohol abuse.  This is 21% more common in Washington than in the nation as a whole. On the national list of killers, it’s ranked number 12.  (Wikipedia description)
Death rate: 13.9 in Washington. 11.5 in the United States. 21.7 in New Mexico — 6.7 in Utah.

10. Influenza and pneumonia
Washington fares significantly better against the flu and pneumonia than the rest of the country.  Not only is it number 10 on our list (compared to 8th on the national list), but the death rate is 39% lower here than elsewhere.  (Wikipedia descriptions of influenza and pneumonia)
Death rate: 11.0 in Washington. 18.0 in the United States. 32.5 in Hawaii — 9.0 in Alaska.

SOURCE:  All data is from the National Vital Statistics System’s Leading Causes of Death, 2013, the CDC’s latest year of reporting.

PHOTO © Steve Campion.

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