Turns out, dying in Massachusetts is not all that different from anywhere else.
Still while the leading causes of death — cancer, heart disease, stroke — in Massachusetts don’t differ from those elsewhere in the United States, the death rates are consistently lower, according to data from the Massachusetts Division of Research and Epidemiology.
The data for 2013 show that rates for many causes of death all fall below U.S. averages. Those include:
- Heart disease
- Chronic lower respiratory disease
- Suicide, Alzheimer’s disease
- Chronic liver disease,
In 2013, for example, the homicide age-adjusted rates per 100,000 people for homicides was 57 percent lower than U.S. homicide rates.
Massachusetts’ lower-than-average death rates can be traced back to a host of factors, health officials say, such as better health care and education. Not surprisingly, the state ranks as the second healthiest in the country, according to the United Health Foundation, which releases a report every year looking at overall health across the U.S.
Yet disparities exist across different races.
In 2014, for instance, blacks and non-Hispanics had the highest premature mortality rate (PMR) — defined as deaths occurring before age 75 — at 313 per 100,000 people. White non-Hispanics. by comparison, had a PMR of 281.9.
The 2013 data paints a grimmer picture for the infant mortality rate, or the number of deaths in children under 1 year of age per 1,000 live births. There were 298 infant deaths in the state for every 71,000 live births. The rate for black and non-Hispanic infants was 8.9 per 1,000 live births, compared with just 3.6 for white non-Hispanics.
More than 55,000 people died in Massachusetts in 2014, a slight increase from 2013: About 31 percent of those demises were attributed to “other” causes, 23 percent to cancer, 21 percent to heart disease and 7 percent to injuries.
Of course, these numbers reflect yearly averages — but what does the Commonwealth’s daily dose of death look like? Daily mortality statistics from 2014 show trends that reflect the yearly averages.
Thirty-five people died from cancer a day (20 percent of deaths attributed to cancer for the year) followed closely by heart disease deaths at 32 a day (with a yearly average of 21 percent). The lowest daily death toll is for infant deaths at an average of one a day, with the leading cause being short gestation or low birth weight. There were no substantial changes from 2013 to 2014.
So, where are people dying? Mostly at hospitals and nursing homes, the data show: Of the roughly 55,000 death in 2014, 37 percent occurred at a hospital and 28 percent at a nursing home.
After a death, one inevitable question emerges: If the person had lived, how many more years would they’ve had? Potential Years of Life Lost (PYLL) tries to answer this.
For Massachusetts, PYLL was measured between 2000 to 2009. It’s calculated by subtracting the age at death by the the national life expectancy of 75. If you die at 50, your PYLL is 25. Here in the Bay State, 344,726 potential years of life for residents were lost in 2009, which represents a 4 percent drop from 2000 (259,377).
Barring the unforeseen, 35-year-old white and black non-Hispanics can expect to live about another 50 years, compared with a Hispanic of the same age, who can plan for another 45 years (keep in mind this data does not account for gender).