The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) releases an annual list of the top causes of death among adults in the United States, with 74.5% of the 3.46 million deaths in 2021 attributed to 10 causes.
The top 10 causes of death are heart disease (695,547 people,) cancer (605,213,) COVID-19 cases (416,893,) accidents (224,935,) stroke (162,890,) chronic lower respiratory diseases (142,342,) Alzheimer’s disease (119,399,) diabetes (103,294,) chronic liver disease and cirrhosis (56,585,) and kidney disease (54,358.)
The age-adjusted death rate has decreased for six of these causes between 1999 and 2021, with the sharpest declines seen for influenza and pneumonia, heart disease, and strokes.
Deaths increased by 2.4% compared to the previous list, rising from 3.38 million in 2020 to 3.46 million in 2021. Other causes of death may also factor into the rising death toll of 2021, such as suicide and violent crimes related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
People aged 85 and older have the highest mortality rate for 14 out of the 16 leading causes of death, with the only exceptions being liver disease and homicide, which mainly impact younger age groups.
Among genders, men had a higher mortality rate than women for all but two of the 17 leading causes of death. Men had a 61.9% higher rate of heart disease deaths and were over 50% likely to die from an unintentional accident. Women were 47.5% more likely to die from Alzheimer’s disease.
The CDC report relies on the underlying causes of death listed on U.S. death certificates, determined by medical professional, and usually linked to a disease or injury. Obesity is a gateway to nearly all other age-related disorders, such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, and Alzheimer’s.
If adjustments are not made, the life expectancy of Americans will continue to decline despite rebounding in similarly developed countries since the pandemic.