United States: Death rate from alcohol, other drugs, and mental disorders nearly triples since 1980
More than 2,000 US counties witnessed increases of 200% or more in the death rates related to use of harmful substances and mental disorders since, according to a new scientific study.
The study examines deaths in 21 cause groups, ranging from Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) like diabetes to infectious diseases, such as HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis, to accidents, including traffic fatalities. It explores mortality rates and how they have changed in every US county between 1980 and 2014, creating the most comprehensive view to date of causes of mortality in the United States.
Leading causes of death and health inequalities
Cardiovascular disease was the leading cause of death overall in the United States in 2014, but cancers were responsible for more years of life lost to early death than any other cause. Causes of mortality differ significantly among communities in the United States, highlighting stark health disparities in the country. For instance, the counties with the highest and the lowest mortality rates from cirrhosis and other liver diseases were both in South Dakota, with 193 deaths per 100,000 people in Oglala Lakota County, to seven deaths per 100,000 people in Lincoln County.
Other causes vary by changes in mortality rates since 1980. For example, about half of US counties saw increases in suicide and violence, while the other half of counties experienced decreases. Kusilvak Census Area in Alaska topped the list with a 131% mortality rate increase, while the rate in New York County, New York, dropped by 72% – the most dramatic decrease in the country.
Substance use mortality
Mortality rates from substance abuse – including alcohol and other drug use – and mental health disorders are highly variable as well, showing the greatest increases in Clermont County, Ohio (2,206%), and Boone County, West Virginia (2,030%), and the largest drops in Aleutians East Borough, Aleutians West Census Area, Alaska, and Miami-Dade County, Florida, declining by 51% and 45%, respectively.
The mortality trends in mental and substance use disorders, as well as with other causes of death covered in the study, point to the need for a well-considered response from local and state governments, as well as care providers, to help reduce the disparities we are seeing across the country,” said Dr. Christopher Murray, Director of IHME.