Archive for July 5, 2006

Causes of Death

From Cynical C I ran into this article by SixWise about the most feared but unlikely causes of death.

From the article:

Biggest fears aside, the Journal of the American Medical
Association published a study that uncovered the actual leading
causes of death in the United States (in 2000). Overwhelmingly,
these causes stem from our own, modifiable behaviors.

  • Tobacco (435,000 deaths, 18.1 percent of total U.S. deaths)

  • Poor diet and physical inactivity (400,000 deaths, 16.6 percent)

  • Alcohol consumption (85,000 deaths, 3.5 percent)

  • Microbial agents (75,000)

  • Toxic agents (55,000)

  • Motor vehicle crashes (43,000)

  • Incidents involving firearms (29,000)

  • Sexual behaviors (20,000)

  • Illicit use of drugs (17,000)

Now here’s the problem. If you click on the link to the article it says: “the leading causes of death in 2000 were tobacco (435 000 deaths; 18.1% of total US deaths), poor diet and physical inactivity (400 000 deaths; 16.6%), and alcohol consumption (85 000 deaths; 3.5%). Other actual causes of death were microbial agents (75 000), toxic agents (55 000), motor vehicle crashes (43 000), incidents involving firearms (29 000), sexual behaviors (20 000), and illicit use of drugs (17 000).”
Hence the sixwise site list implies that toxic agents, firearms, and sex were leading cuases of death. If you look at the CDC’s site for 2004 heart disease, cancer, and stroke are the leading causes of death, all of which are linked to smoking and diet in some form, but toxic agents, guns, and sex don’t even make the list. It’s a small gripe, but the inclusion is false. Accidents do rank as a leading cause of death though, hence guns and car crashes might be included in that category. Additionally, the article says: “
Comprehensive MEDLINE search of English-language articles that identified epidemiological, clinical, and laboratory studies linking risk behaviors and mortality.” In other words this is paper is a compenduim of papers on risky behavoirs (multiple sexual partners, guns, drugs, etc) and does leave out less-risky behavoirs that might correalate with the leading causes of death (tofu for instance is linked to stomach cancer, but usually isn’t considered a risky item to eat).

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July 5, 2006 at 6:12 pm


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