|MMWR Surveillance Summaries
Vol. 66, No. SS-1
January 13, 2017
Leading Causes of Death in Nonmetropolitan and Metropolitan Areas — United States, 1999–2014
Surveillance Summaries / January 13, 2017 / 66(1);1–8
Problem/Condition: Higher rates of death in nonmetropolitan areas (often referred to as rural areas) compared with metropolitan areas have been described but not systematically assessed.
Period Covered: 1999–2014
Description of System: Mortality data for U.S. residents from the National Vital Statistics System were used to calculate age-adjusted death rates and potentially excess deaths for nonmetropolitan and metropolitan areas for the five leading causes of death. Age-adjusted death rates included all ages and were adjusted to the 2000 U.S. standard population by the direct method. Potentially excess deaths are defined as deaths among persons aged < 80 years that exceed the numbers that would be expected if the death rates of states with the lowest rates (i.e., benchmark states) occurred across all states. (Benchmark states were the three states with the lowest rates for each cause during 2008–2010.) Potentially excess deaths were calculated separately for nonmetropolitan and metropolitan areas. Data are presented for the United States and the 10 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services public health regions.
Results: Across the United States, nonmetropolitan areas experienced higher age-adjusted death rates than metropolitan areas. The percentages of potentially excess deaths among persons aged < 80 years from the five leading causes were higher in nonmetropolitan areas than in metropolitan areas. For example, approximately half of deaths from unintentional injury and chronic lower respiratory disease in nonmetropolitan areas were potentially excess deaths, compared with 39.2% and 30.9%, respectively, in metropolitan areas. Potentially excess deaths also differed among and within public health regions; within regions, nonmetropolitan areas tended to have higher percentages of potentially excess deaths than metropolitan areas.
Interpretation: Compared with metropolitan areas, nonmetropolitan areas have higher age-adjusted death rates and greater percentages of potentially excess deaths from the five leading causes of death, nationally and across public health regions.
Public Health Action: Routine tracking of potentially excess deaths in nonmetropolitan areas might help public health departments identify emerging health problems, monitor known problems, and focus interventions to reduce preventable deaths in these areas.