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The Most Distinctive Causes of Death by State

by Tony Creech on Saturday, July 4, 2015

14_0395_large_01The CDC published a list and map of the most distinctive causes of death by state in May.  I thought it was a fun and odd way to celebrate our nation by showing you this, and maybe it’ll reward your curiosity and add a bit of gravitas into today.

I get most fascinated by the groups of states that shared distinctive death, like the Influenza and respiratory infections. Kinda makes scared to have asthma and to live so close to that group… yikes.

The map also shows me how little I know of these names.

By Far the most interesting designation to me, and one with a whole group of states is death by “legal intervention” – hmm with the year we’ve had of wrongful deaths at the hands of police, this is a scary metric.

The data in this study is collected over the course of a decade 2001-2010, and the study is peer reviewed.

some tidbits from the CDC’s post

from 15,000 deaths from HIV in Florida to 679 deaths from tuberculosis in Texas to 22 deaths from syphilis in Louisiana. The largest number of deaths mapped were the 37,292 deaths in Michigan from “atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, so described”; the fewest, the 11 deaths in Montana from “acute and rapidly progressive nephritic and nephrotic syndrome.” The state-specific percentage of total deaths mapped ranged from 1.8% (Delaware; atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, so described) to 0.0005% (Illinois, other disorders of kidney).

A noted limitation of this map is that it depicts only 1 distinctive cause of death for each state. They state that while all of these were significantly higher than the national rate, there were many others also significantly higher than the national rate that were not mapped.

Another limitation they note is that the map is predisposed to showing rare causes of death. They point out that for 22 of the states, the total number of deaths mapped was under 100. It’s true that by using broader cause-of-death categories or simply requiring a higher threshold for the number of deaths, you would result in a quite different map. They point out that such limitations are characteristic of maps in general, and are why such maps are best regarded as snapshots and not comprehensive statistical summaries (5).


Tony Creech
anthony thomas creech is Founder of Citadel Magazine. He's a marketing executive, filmmaker, screenwriter, columnist, and university lecturer on film, audio, media, and faith. You can find him at thecreechleague.com