How do mortality rates in the U.S. compare to other countries?


The U.S. has lower than average mortality rates for cancers but higher than average rates in the other causes of mortality. This collection of charts explores how mortality rates in the U.S. compare to similar OECD countries (those that are similarly large and wealthy based on GDP and GDP per capita). 

Mortality rates have fallen steadily in the U.S. and in comparable countries


The mortality rate (number of deaths per 100,000 people, adjusted for age differences across countries) has been falling in the U.S. and in comparable countries.

 

For most of the leading causes of death, mortality rates are higher in the U.S. than in comparable countries


Among the major causes of death, the U.S. has lower than average mortality rates for cancers and higher than average rates in the other categories relative to comparable countries. These categories accounted for nearly 88 percent of all deaths in the U.S. in 2013.

The U.S. has a relatively high mortality rate for diseases of the circulatory system


The U.S. mortality rate for diseases of the circulatory system, which includes heart diseases and stroke, is above the comparable country average. For ischaemic heart disease (e.g., heart attacks), which accounts for over 46 percent of the deaths in this category, the U.S. has the second highest mortality rate (117 age-adjusted deaths per 100,000 population) of the comparable countries. For cerebrovascular disease (e.g., stroke), the U.S. has a comparably low mortality rate (41 age-adjusted deaths per 100,000 population).

Mortality rates for diseases of the circulatory system have fallen dramatically over the last 30 years


The U.S. and other countries have made dramatic progress in lowering mortality from diseases of the circulatory system. In the U.S., the mortality rate has fallen from 629 deaths per 100,000 population in 1980 to 253 in 2013.

Compared to similar countries, the U.S. has a relatively low mortality rate for cancers


The U.S. morality rate for cancers (i.e., neoplasms) is among the lowest for the comparable countries.

The mortality rate for cancers has been falling in the U.S. and across comparable countries


The mortality rate for all cancers (neoplasms) has fallen in the U.S. and in comparable countries over the last 30 years. In the U.S., the age-adjusted cancer rate has fallen from about 262 deaths per 100,000 population in 1980 to about 206 per 100,000 in 2013.

The U.S. has a relatively high mortality rate for respiratory diseases


The U.S. morality rate for respiratory diseases is above the comparable country average. This category includes deaths from chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases and pneumonia.

The mortality rate for respiratory diseases is higher in the U.S. than in comparably wealthy countries


Mortality rates for respiratory diseases have fallen over the last 10 years in the U.S. and across comparable countries.

The mortality rate for diseases of the nervous system is higher in the U.S. than in comparably wealthy countries


The U.S. has a relatively high mortality rate for diseases of the nervous system. This category includes deaths from Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Diseases.

The mortality rate for diseases of the nervous system is higher in the U.S. than in comparably wealthy countries


In recent years, mortality rates for diseases of the nervous system have been consistently higher in the U.S. than in comparable countries. In the U.S., the age-adjusted mortality rate for Alzheimer’s disease has increased slightly from just under 25 deaths per 100,000 population in 2003 to just over 26 in 2013.

The U.S. has a relatively high mortality rate for endocrine, nutritional, and metabolic diseases


The U.S. has the highest mortality rate among comparable countries for endocrine, nutritional, and metabolic diseases. This category includes deaths from diabetes (about 70 percent of total).

Mortality rates for endocrine, nutritional and metabolic diseases have fallen over the last 15 years


After rising significantly between 1985 and 1995, mortality rates for these disease have fallen steadily, although the remain substantially higher than the average rate in comparable countries.

The U.S. has a relatively high mortality rate for mental and behavioral disorders


The U.S. mortality rate from mental and behavioral disorders is higher than the comparable county average. Deaths from dementia make up about 91 percent of the deaths in this category in 2013.

The mortality rate for mental and behavioral disorders has been increasing in the U.S.


In the U.S., the increase in mortality from behavioral disorders has been driven by higher mortality attributed to dementia.

The U.S. has a relatively high mortality rate for accidents, suicides and other external causes


The U.S. morality rate for external causes (which includes, accidents, intentional self-harm, poisonings and assaults) is the highest among comparable countries.

The mortality rate for external causes is higher in the U.S. than in comparably wealthy countries


The average mortality rate among comparable countries for accidents and other external has fallen much more over the last 30 years than U.S. rates, which have leveled off after some decline in the 1980s.

Potential Years of Life Lost for major causes of mortality in the U.S. relative to comparable countries


Potential Years of Life Lost (PYLL) is an alternative to mortality rates that focuses on premature deaths. It is measured by adding together the total number of years that people who died before an specified age (e.g. 70) would have lived if they had lived to that age. For example, a person who dies at age 45 would have a PYLL of 25. As a measure, it provides more weights to deaths at younger ages. The PYLL in the U.S. for all leading causes of death exceeds the comparable country averages.

Potential Years of Life Lost have fallen steadily in the U.S. and in comparable OECD countries


The U.S. and comparable OECD countries have made progress in reducing PYLL’s over the last thirty years, although the U.S. continues to trail the OECD comparable country average by a significant margin (4584 v. 2765 PYLLs per 100,000 population in 2013).

Cancer and circulatory diseases are the leading causes of years of life lost in the U.S.


The leading causes of years of life lost (YLL) in the U.S. are cancers, circulatory conditions, and injuries. In addition to years lived with disability (YLD), the calculation of DALYs also involves calculating years of life lost (YLL), a measure of premature death. YLL is a product of the number of deaths and life expectancy at age of death.

The U.S. has the highest rate of deaths amenable to health care among comparable countries


Researchers have looked at mortality that results from medical conditions for which there are recognized health care interventions that would be expected to prevent death. While the health care system might not be expected to prevent death in all of these instances, differences in mortality for these conditions provides information about how effectively health care is being delivered. In 2006, the last year for which reasonably complete information is available, the U.S. had the highest mortality rate for deaths amenable to health care among the comparable countries.

The U.S. has lagged behind comparable countries in improving on a score of mortality amenable to health care


The Healthcare Access and Quality (HAQ) Index is based on age-standardized, risk-standardized mortality rates for 32 causes amenable to health care. Based on data from the Global Burden of Disease Study, the HAQ Index is scaled from 0 to 100: lower scores indicate high mortality rates for these causes, while higher scores indicate lower mortality rates and thus better quality of and access to health care. Researchers report that both the U.S. and comparable countries improved rates of mortality amenable to health care from 1990 to 1995. Though both have improved mortality amenable to health care, the gap between the U.S. and similar countries has widened. On average, comparable countries saw a 15% increase in the HAQ Index during that time, while the U.S. saw a 10% increase.

The decline in U.S. mortality rates largely reflects improvement for circulatory diseases


Lower mortality rates for circulatory diseases (heart disease and strokes) are driving the decline in U.S. rates over the last 30 years. Mortality rates for cancers have also fallen, while rates for mental and behavioral disorders (primarily dementia) and diseases of the nervous system (including Alzheimer’s disease) have risen.