April 19, 2006
Death Rate Drops In United States In 2004

A preliminary US government analysis of deaths in 2004 show an unexpected decline in the total national death rate.

This report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) provides selected key findings from 2004 preliminary mortality data for the United States. The findings come from a substantial portion of the records of deaths that occurred in calendar year 2004 and were received and processed by NCHS as of September 12, 2005. Mortality records are based on information reported on death certificates as completed by funeral directors, attending physicians, medical examiners, and coroners.

...

The age-adjusted death rate reached a record low 801.0 per 100,000 U.S. standard population (Figure 1). This value is 3.8 percent lower than the 2003 rate of 832.7 (Table 1). All the sex, race, and Hispanic origin groups described in this report showed significant decreases in the age-adjusted death rate between 2003 and 2004.

Declines in deaths are rare. An aging population increases the death rate. So what are the causes of this result?

The biggest killer diseases took fewer lives.

Heart disease continues to be the leading cause of death, accounting for 27 percent of the nation's deaths in 2004. Cancer was second, at about 23 percent, and strokes were third, at 6 percent.

The good news: The age-adjusted death rate for all three killers dropped. The heart disease rate declined more than 6 percent, the cancer rate about 3 percent, and the stroke rate about 6.5 percent.

If this result holds up as the epidemiologists finish their analysis of 2004 deaths then why is this happening? Could statin drugs and other treatments be causing a drop in heart attacks and strokes? Could advances in cancer treatments be behind the decline in cancer deaths?

The raw number of deaths dropped.

"The most striking aspect of the data this year was the intensity or volume of the decreases," said Arialdi Miniño, a statistician with the National Center for Health Statistics at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the lead author of the report. "This is the largest single-year decrease in the raw numbers of deaths that we've seen since the 1940s."

At some point in the 21st century biomedical science and technology will reach a point where whole body rejuvenation becomes possible. At that point the death rate will drop by orders of magnitude in the course of a decade. Some people are trying to make that day come sooner.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2006 April 19 09:22 PM  Aging Studies


Comments
Jake said at April 20, 2006 12:21 PM:

"Could statin drugs and other treatments be causing a drop in heart attacks and strokes?"

Absolutely. There has been a sea change in heart disease since 1960. Here are the reasons for the dramatic reduction in heart disease in the last 40 years listed in order of importance.

1. Decline in the number of smokers
2. Blood pressure reducing drugs
3. Statins
4. Advances in surgical treatment of heart disease
5. People changing their eating habits.

momochan said at April 20, 2006 2:44 PM:

My dentist thinks that Americans' cleaner teeth (more specifically, cleaner gums) is a factor in reduced heart disease over the past several decades. There's an argument that low-level inflammation as a result of infection stresses the cardiovascular system. I haven't seen any numbers to back up that idea, however. And to my mind, only statins could be responsible for the 2004 heart disease figures.

Engineer-Poet said at April 20, 2006 4:26 PM:

There's at least one researcher who looks at the distribution of heart disease and says, from the epidemiology alone, that it's got to be infectious.

If viral infections can cause heart failure or obesity, why not atherosclerosis?

Randall Parker said at April 20, 2006 5:12 PM:

Jake,

My point (which I did not make with sufficient clarity) is how could this effect show up so dramatically in one year?

What strikes me as mighty odd about the latest news is that multiple causes of death dipped in the same year. That seems unlikely.

If statins are going to start cutting heart disease risks to the point we'd notice I'd expect their effect to start coming on gradually. But maybe statin sales spiked way up in a single year several years ago and then the drugs took n years to gradually reduce accumulation of gunk and then the users who would have died suddenly kept living.

I hope this effect is from the statins. Maybe the statins also reduce inflammation in a way that reduces cancer development too.

AA2 said at April 21, 2006 1:24 AM:

I read this article, and what I thought was this... The best way to look at car safety, and highway safety.. increases over time was to look at factors like number of auto deaths per 100k population, number of autodeaths per mile driven and the like..

From that we saw a dramatic falling off in the number of deaths, which continues to this day. Its more effective of a judge imo then trying to determine whether any one innovation is positive.

This report of the falling death rate is a very clear sign of medicine continuing to increase life expectancy. Even as pessimists always claim we've already made the big increases, we can't go any further. Just like many say moore's law has hit the end of the road, we won't be able to increase the gains for much longer, for such and such a reason.

I've made the argument before as well that Statins are a life-extension drug. And they are already the biggest drug, lipitor the world's first 10 billion dollar blockbuster. There is HUGE money in this..

Nick said at April 21, 2006 10:23 PM:

"Declines in deaths are rare."

The situation is more optimistic than that. If memory serves me right, absolute declines on the order of an average of 1% per year are the rule, for about the last 100 years. What's different this year is the magnitude of the decline.

Nick said at April 21, 2006 10:24 PM:

"Declines in deaths are rare."

The situation is more optimistic than that. If memory serves me right, absolute declines on the order of an average of 1% per year are the rule, for about the last 100 years. What's different this year is the magnitude of the decline.

Nick said at April 21, 2006 10:56 PM:

"Declines in deaths are rare."

The situation is more optimistic than that. If memory serves me right, absolute declines on the order of an average of 1% per year are the rule, for about the last 100 years. What's different this year is the magnitude of the decline.

Anonymouse said at April 22, 2006 6:04 PM:

Could be a reduction of stress, or some other peripheral factor that's not usually examined closely.

Mason said at November 15, 2012 10:53 AM:

Perhaps the fact that Vioxx was pulled from the market in 2004? Death rate increased in 1999 when it was introduced, decreased in 2004 when it went off the market.

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