We're unable to sign you in at this time. Please try again in a few minutes.
We were able to sign you in, but your subscription(s) could not be found. Please try again in a few minutes.
There may be a problem with your account. Please contact the AMA Service Center to resolve this issue.
Contact the AMA Service Center:
Telephone: 1 (800) 262-2350 or 1 (312) 670-7827  *   Email: subscriptions@jamanetwork.com
Error Message ......
JAMA Patient Page |

Death in the United States: Changes From 1969 to 2013 FREE

Jill Jin, MD, MPH
JAMA. 2016;315(3):318. doi:10.1001/jama.2015.17432.
Text Size: A A A
Published online

Americans are becoming healthier, living longer, and losing fewer years of life to preventable disease.


A study published in the October 27, 2015, issue of JAMA looked at death certificates gathered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from all 50 states between 1969 and 2013 and provides information on the rates and causes of death in the United States.

From 1969 to 2013, the overall death rate in the United States decreased by more than 40%. In 1969, about 1279 people per 100 000 died. In 2013, this number decreased to 730 people per 100 000. These rates are age standardized, meaning they are adjusted for the fact that over the years, the US population has been getting older, so there are many more elderly Americans (in whom death is more common) now than in 1969.

Another way of looking at the overall health of the nation is to look at trends in prematuredeaths by estimating the years of “potential life” lost. Between 1969 and 2013, the years of potential life lost decreased by more than 50%, from 135 per 1000 years to 64 per 1000 years.


The leading causes of death in 2013 were

  • Heart disease

  • Cancer

  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)

  • Unintentional injuries

  • Stroke

  • Alzheimer disease

  • Diabetes

  • Influenza and pneumonia

  • Kidney disease

  • Suicide

Overall, the death rate is higher for men than for women. The leading 3 causes of death for men in 2013 were heart disease, cancer, and unintentional injuries. The leading 3 causes of death for women in 2013 were cancer, heart disease, and COPD. Deaths due to 5 of these 6 causes of death (everything except COPD) decreased overall from 1969 to 2013. The rate of death due to COPD has increased since 1969, but most of this increase was from 1969 to 1999, and since 1999 the rate has been slowly decreasing.


As a nation, the United States has made significant progress in improving overall health and lowering overall death rates. Thousands of premature deaths have been prevented each year by controlling major risk factors for heart disease, cancer, and COPD such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking. However, for obesity-related diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and stroke, the rates of decline in mortality have slowed in recent years. This illustrates the serious health risks that continue to be posed by the obesity epidemic in the United States. As the US population continues to age, continued efforts to control obesity, blood pressure, cholesterol, and smoking in both children and adults will be crucial.

Box Section Ref ID

For More Information

To find this and previous JAMA Patient Pages, go to the Patient Page link on JAMA’s website at www.jama.com. Spanish translations are available in the supplemental content tab.


The JAMA Patient Page is a public service of JAMA. The information and recommendations appearing on this page are appropriate in most instances, but they are not a substitute for medical diagnosis. For specific information concerning your personal medical condition, JAMA suggests that you consult your physician. This page may be photocopied noncommercially by physicians and other health care professionals to share with patients. To purchase bulk reprints, call 312/464-0776.

Source: Ma J, Ward EM, Siegel RL, Jemal A. Temporal trends in mortality in the United States, 1969-2013. JAMA. 2015;314(16):1731-1739.

Topic: Public Health



Also Meets CME requirements for:
Browse CME for all U.S. States
Accreditation Information
The American Medical Association is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education to provide continuing medical education for physicians. The AMA designates this journal-based CME activity for a maximum of 1 AMA PRA Category 1 CreditTM per course. Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity. Physicians who complete the CME course and score at least 80% correct on the quiz are eligible for AMA PRA Category 1 CreditTM.
Note: You must get at least of the answers correct to pass this quiz.
Please click the checkbox indicating that you have read the full article in order to submit your answers.
Your answers have been saved for later.
You have not filled in all the answers to complete this quiz
The following questions were not answered:
Sorry, you have unsuccessfully completed this CME quiz with a score of
The following questions were not answered correctly:
Commitment to Change (optional):
Indicate what change(s) you will implement in your practice, if any, based on this CME course.
Your quiz results:
The filled radio buttons indicate your responses. The preferred responses are highlighted
For CME Course: A Proposed Model for Initial Assessment and Management of Acute Heart Failure Syndromes
Indicate what changes(s) you will implement in your practice, if any, based on this CME course.


Spanish Patient Page: Mortalidad en los Estados Unidos: Cambios desde 1969 hasta 2013

Supplemental Content

Some tools below are only available to our subscribers or users with an online account.

0 Citations

Related Content

Customize your page view by dragging & repositioning the boxes below.

Articles Related By Topic
Related Collections
PubMed Articles

The Rational Clinical Examination: Evidence-Based Clinical Diagnosis
Diabetes, Foot Ulcer

The Rational Clinical Examination: Evidence-Based Clinical Diagnosis
Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy