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Premature Deaths (All Causes)

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Why do we measure premature death from all causes? 

We focus on measuring deaths that occur before age 75 because these deaths are largely preventable, compared to deaths at older ages.(1,2) Communities where many people die at young ages often face social and economic disadvantages that impact community well-being. 

We can also use the measure of premature death to compare differences between populations or geographic areas and better understand risk factors for early deaths. For instance, we know that premature death is more likely for those living in the Southern U.S. and in rural areas, males, those with lower education, the unemployed, and those who have limited access to a physician.(3,4)

Over the past decades, the rates of premature death from all causes have declined as preventive services and government health policies have improved.(5)However, significant variation in premature death rates remains a serious health equity concern.

How do we measure premature death from all causes?

This metric includes the total number of years of life lost in a population before the age of 75.

Strengths of Metric

Limitations of Metric

Measuring the age of death, rather than just any occurrence of death, helps us understand the extent to which the death was preventable. 

The metric uses age 75 as a cut-off, which captures the burden of chronic disease and loss of economic productivity better than a younger cut-off age.(4,6)

Since the metric includes premature death as a result of all causes, it can be used to measure the impact of broad population health interventions, programs, and policies.

Premature death and years or potential life lost can be difficult to interpret and explain.(1)

The method that researchers use to calculate premature death can vary. Some researchers use age 65 or 75 as theage cut-off, while others use the life expectancy for an age group instead of a specific age cut-off.(1)

Premature death does not count all deaths in a population, such as those occurring at age 76 or older.

Calculation

Premature death from all causes is calculated by the following formula:

premature deaths formula

This metric is age-adjusted and incorporates population weights. It is calculated by aggregating estimates from smaller geographies to the congressional district level. Please see the Congressional District Health Dashboard Technical Document for more details. 

Years of Collection

For total population, calculated by the Dashboard Team using data from 2020, 1 year estimate

For all specific demogroups, including racial/ethnic subgroups and gender subgroups, calculated by the Dashboard Team using data from 2020, 3 year estimate

Data Source

Estimates for this metric are from Multiple Cause of Death Data from National Vital Statistics System of the National Center for Health Statistics. 

References

  1. Dranger E, Remington P. YPLL: A Summary Measure of Premature Mortality Used in Measuring the Health of Communities. planning. 2004;113:55-61.

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Premature mortality in the United States: public health issues in the use of years of potential life lost. MMWR supplements. 1986;35(2):1s-11s.

  3. Cullen MR, Cummins C, Fuchs VR. Geographic and racial variation in premature mortality in the U.S.: analyzing the disparities. PLoS One. 2012;7(4):e32930.

  4. Mansfield CJ, Wilson JL, Kobrinski EJ, Mitchell J. Premature mortality in the United States: the roles of geographic area, socioeconomic status, household type, and availability of medical care. Am J Public Health. 1999;89(6):893-898.

  5. Ma J, Ward EM, Siegel RL, Jemal A. Temporal Trends in Mortality in the United States, 1969-2013. Jama. 2015;314(16):1731-1739.

  6. Gardner JW, Sanborn JS. Years of potential life lost (YPLL)--what does it measure? Epidemiology. 1990;1(4):322-329.

Last updated: February 20, 2024