Mortality, Income, and Health Behaviors by Age, Race and Gender in the US

In this article, I’ll display public data on mortality, age, sex and race in a boatload of charts (24 of them).

We will look at issues like:

  • Income, obesity, smoking, exercise and other health behaviors across race and gender
  • How young people’s mortality rate is much, much lower than older people
  • How Black and White Americans die much more often than Asians, Hispanics and Native Americans
  • The huge drop in deaths related to cardiovascular disease and cancer as well as stats on how rates have changed for many other causes of death during the past 30 years


Unless stated otherwise, mortality rate is by year is from 2008; income, mortality and other categorized mortality data is from the year 2013; and health behavior data is 2006-2012.

The sources are: CDC/NCHS, National Vital Statistics System; CDC/NCHS – NHANES and Health data interactive; U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Survey (2014)

The invincibility of youth

percent chance of death by age

No matter how you play it, age is the leading factor in death.

Except for the first years of life, our chance of death increases exponentially as we age:

  • In the 75 to 84 year-old age group you are more than 60x more likely to die than when you are in 18 to 24 year-old group
  • Mortality rate doubles about every seven to eight years
  • In the 75-84 year old vs the 18-24 year old group, all causes are higher by 60x, but it varies across categories. Examples:
    • accidents: 3x more likely
    • cancer: 307x
    • cardiovascular disease: 473x
    • and even suicide: 1.3x

cause of death by age


Gender: Mortality in Men and Women

It is well known that mortality rate is much higher in males than females. Let’s look at a few charts to see exactly how much higher:


Women live significantly longer than men. Life expectancy for women is about 5 to 6 years longer; Age-adjusted mortality is 1.4x higher for men.

You might notice that the pool of women begin to outnumber the men as we age:

surviving population sex


Men and women also succumb to different causes. See below the ratios of male:female mortality rates for specific causes (and the age 18+ adjusted mortality rate) for each sex:

cause of death by sex


Can we explain it with some major behavioral risks? Let’s look at income, obesity, smoking, excess drinking, physical activity by gender. Men do more in everything (good or bad):

Income by gender table (2013) v2

excess drinking by sex exercise by sex Obesity and overwieght by sex smoking - sex


These health factors seem to explain some of the differences in mortality.

Race: Mortality, income and health behaviors by race

For whatever reason, there’s considerable variability from race to race in mortality, income and other health-related stats.

Whites and Blacks die much more often than Asians, Hispanics and Native Americans in the US. Black mortality rate is the highest and until older ages (around 60) blacks die about 40% more often than average and more than 3 times more often than Asians:

age adjusted mortality rate by race


mortality by age and race mortality rate ratio by age race

Mortality rates for certain causes also differ by race. A few things that stick out:

  • diabetes, kidney, septicemia and especially homicide and HIV in Black people
  • liver disease and diabetes in Native Americans

cause of death by race

mortality rate percent variance from average by race

Health Indicators by Race

While obvious differences in mortality rate exist between race, there are many confounding factors and/or symptoms:

excess drinking by race obesity by racesmoking by raceimage014 income source by race stacked 100p cols income source by race
perc with income by race


How mortality has changed over time

Overall, mortality rate in the US has dropped significantly over the last 30 years, driven almost entirely by a plunge in cardiovascular related deaths and a significant decline in cancer

area chart cause of death 1981 to 2013 change in mortality rate cause 1981 to 2013 percent change in mortality cause 1981 to 2013

All causes have declined with the exception of certain neurological diseases. What is driving the increase in neurological diseases? Perhaps it’s just that people are living longer, so they succumb to things like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s more often. However, it could be anything from food, water, lifestyle, who knows?

That’s all for now

Anyway, I’ve been morbid enough for one day.

Leave your comments below or contact me directly. I would love to hear your critiques and ideas or an opportunity to share some of my work with you.


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