The Most Common Causes of Death in Your State, Besides Heart Disease and Cancer


The news: Ever wondered what the biggest killer in your state is? Slate's Ben Blatt has your back with this map of most common causes of death, based on a 2008 Centers for Disease Control report using data from 2005. This is still the most recent data catalogued by state, so mileage may vary. You can find the original tables here.

The data: First, here's the most common causes of death if you exclude heart disease and cancer, which are the top two destroyers of human lives in every single state. Once those two are eliminated, we're left with accidents (sorry, Florida), strokes and respiratory diseases as the top slayers.

If you include heart disease and cancer, you end up with a United States plagued by heart disease, with cancer taking the lead among the northernmost states.

But this is still a rather boring map. So Blatt made it much more interesting by generating a map that singles out disproportionate causes of death:

As Blatt notes, the map can lead to some misleading conclusions. Utah looks like the diabetes capital of the country, but it's actually in sixth place. Louisiana is actually No. 1, but suffers from a disproportionate amount of kidney disease. And though Texas looks like it has a big septicemia problem, it's actually 18th in deaths from those kinds of infections. Louisiana is actually ranked first, as it is for accidental injuries, plus it's third for cancer and Alzheimer's.

Breaking it down further: Other interesting maps include age-adjusted deaths by accidents, heart disease and cancer compared with the national average. As you can see, there's one steady pattern: The American South, as well as much of the Midwest, has higher rates of death from these causes than other parts of the country. Since this data isn't normalized per state, it means that a cause of death can still be relatively uncommon in some states but still exceed the national average. Some states luck out, like Minnesota, which has below-average age-adjusted deaths for every one of the top 10 causes of death, and correspondingly has a life expectancy nearly five years longer than Alabama.

So who's the healthiest? The least deadly state is Hawaii, which ranks 50th among the aggregated age-adjusted causes of death. Hawaii is really, really healthy, ranking 49th among smokers, with low rates of diabetes and few other disproportionate causes of death. Thus it makes sense that Hawaii is ranked No. 1 by America's Health Rankings. It even has the nation's lowest rate of preventable hospitalizations. Surf's up.