The U.S. death rate for all causes is continuing to decline, aided by drops in fatalities from leading causes like heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes and accidents, new research finds.
Between 1969 and 2013, the death rate for all causes declined 43 percent from about 1,279 people for each 100,000 individuals in the population to about 730 per 100,000, according to the study published today in JAMA, the journal of the American Medical Association.
Five of the six leading causes of death declined during the study period. Death rates dropped 77 percent for stroke, 68 percent for heart disease, 40 percent for unintended injuries, 18 percent for cancer, and 17 percent for diabetes.
"The leading causes of death examined in this study – except unintentional injuries – all are chronic conditions," said lead study author Jiemin Ma, director of the surveillance and health services research program at the American Cancer Society.
"Tobacco control, high blood pressure prevention and management, early detection and screening, and improvements in treating heart disease, stroke and some types of cancer have substantially contributed to reductions in death rates," Ma added by email.
Only one of the six leading causes of death – chronic obstructive pulmonary disease – didn't drop. Rates of death from COPD doubled despite a decline in deaths among men near the end of the study period.
To examine long-term trends in mortality, Ma and colleagues analyzed U.S. national vital statistics to determine the total and annual percent change in age-standardized death rates and years of life lost before age 75 for all causes combined and for the leading causes.
While death rates for five of the six leading causes dropped, the magnitude of the declines recently started to slow for heart disease, stroke and diabetes, the study found.
The progress against heart disease and stroke is due to improvements in controlling high blood pressure and cholesterol, smoking cessation and advances in treatment, the authors conclude.
Reductions in cancer deaths since the early 1990s is also due to tobacco control efforts as well as gains in early detection and treatment, the authors note.