August 31, 2009
Death Risk Rankings Web Site

Do you feel lucky to be alive? Check out this web site and see if you are right.

PITTSBURGH—Have you ever wondered what the chances are that you may die in the next year? Would it be from illness or an accident? Is it something you can control? Or is it completely out of your hands?

A new Web site,, developed by researchers and students at Carnegie Mellon University, allows users to query publicly available data from the United States and Europe, and compare mortality risks by gender, age, cause of death and geographic region. The Web site not only gives the risk of dying within the next year, but it also ranks the probable causes and allows for quick side-by-side comparison between groups.

Suppose you wanted to know who is more likely to die next year from breast cancer, a 54-year-old Pennsylvania woman or her counterpart in the United Kingdom.

"This is the only place to look," said Paul Fischbeck, site developer and professor of social and decision sciences and engineering and public policy (EPP) at Carnegie Mellon. "It turns out that the British woman has a 33 percent higher risk of breast cancer death. But for lung/throat cancer, the results are almost reversed, and the Pennsylvania woman has a 29 percent higher risk."

I chose outputs broken down by regional US categories but found the results frustrating. The Pacific included such diverse places as Alaska, California, and Hawaii along with Oregon and Washington state. Hawaii has what in common with Alaska? I can see grouping New England (which has the lowest death risks in analyses I chose to do). But my guess is death risks differ greatly from New Hampshire to Manhattan. If one wanted to move to a lower risk area it would be hard to use these results to one one. Though the US southeast and especially east south central (Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, and Mississippi) come thru as places higher death risks - probably due to higher obesity and poor lifestyle choices. The colder areas appear to be healthier than the warmer areas. But is that due to cultural preferences or weather?

Anyone see interesting patterns in the data? Post in the comments.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2009 August 31 10:48 PM  Aging Trends

Guillaume Theoret said at September 1, 2009 6:18 AM:

Canada isn't even in the list =(

I picked Vermont instead since it's the closest state to me and seems that as long as I avoid accidents and suicide it's unlikely I'll die in the next 30 years.

Overall, I'm not very impressed with this tool. My mother is an underwriter that approves (or denies) health insurance policies. I'm not 100% how she does her work but to me this tool basically seems like a web-based actuarial table but without the most interesting and precise information you usually get from a medical.

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