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The 25 Most Common Causes of Death


#8: Car accident
Odds of dying: 1 in 272
Car accidents are a major area of concern in the U.S. and teenage drivers are at the root of the problem. In 2009, the CDC reported that 3,000 teens ages 15 to 19 were killed in automobile accidents and 350,000 were treated in emergency rooms because of car accidents. While young people ages 15 to 24 comprise 14 percent of the population, they account for 30 percent of car accidents.


#7: Falls
Odds of dying: 1 in 184
This category includes statistical data from #18, the category for deaths from falling off a bed, chair or other furniture and #23, the category for people falling off a building, along with any other type of unintentional fall. In 2008, 22,631 Americans died from unintentional falls, which equates to 7.5 people per 100,000.


#6: Accidental poisoning and drug overdose
Odds of dying: 1 in 139
There were 29,846 deaths from unintentional poisoning in 2007 and 40,059 poisoning deaths total. Ninety-seven percent of these deaths are caused by drug overdoses. Not surprisingly, of all the accidental poisoning deaths from drug overdoses, narcotics (#9 on the list) were the most common inducers, and specifically opioids and benzodiazepenes (Valium) took the most lives.


#5: Intentional self harm
Odds of dying: 1 in 115
A person died from committing suicide every 15 minutes in the U.S. in 2007, the most recent year for which data was available. Ninety percent of people who die by suicide have a psychiatric disorder at the time of their death. When attempted, a suicide is not statistically likely to be successful. An estimated 8 to 25 suicide attempts occur for every death. Four male suicides occur for every one female suicide, but three times as many females attempt suicide. The reason is that men choose more lethal methods, like hanging and shooting themselves, than women.


#4: All types of land vehicle accidents
Odds of dying: 1 in 85
This category is similar to car and ATV accidents; it simply combines death rates from ATV and off-road vehicle accidents (#16), motorcycle accidents (#12), car accidents (#8) and any other type of land vehicles, like tractors, tanks and go-karts. Americans are 1,800 times more likely to die in a land vehicle accident than an earthquake, where the odds are 1 in 153,597.


#3: Stroke
Odds of dying: 1 in 28
Sadly for Americans, there is a high statistical chance of dying from a stroke. Over 143,579 people die each year from stroke in the United States. Risk factors for suffering a stroke include high cholesterol, high blood pressure, being age 55 or older, being overweight, physical inactivity, binge drinking, drug use and cigarette smoking.


#2: Cancer
Odds of dying: 1 in 7
Cancer is the second-leading cause of death in the U.S. Americans are four times more likely to die from cancer than stroke, the third entry on this list. There are many different types of cancer, and some are more likely to occur than others. According to the American Cancer Society, lung cancer was the most common and deadliest form of cancer in 2010, with 222,520 cases and 157,300 deaths. Prostate and breast cancer were second and third on the list, respectively.


#1: Heart disease
Odds of dying: 1 in 6
Heart disease, which is slightly more likely to result in death than cancer, is the most common cause of death in America. The good news is that the mortality rate for heart disease is decreasing. Between 1997 and 2007, deaths from heart disease fell 28 percent. During the same period, however, the number of heart procedures performed in hospitals rose 27 percent. This means that quality of care is improving, but our lifestyles are getting worse.


Chris Jagger is a journalism graduate from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo.

Published: June 24, 2011


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