Each year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) releases a list of the leading causes of death among U.S. adults.
USAFacts, a Washington-based nonprofit that compiles and reports on government data, took a deep dive into the latest data to identify any trends.
Among a total of 3.46 million deaths in the year 2021 (the most recent year for which data is available), 74.5% of these deaths were attributed to 10 causes, according to a Thursday press release from USAFacts.
The top three causes of death were heart disease, cancer and COVID-19, which accounted for more than half of the mortalities — despite the fact that death rates have been declining for both cancer and heart disease over the last 20 years.
Among a total of 3.46 million deaths in the year 2021, 74.5% of them were attributed to 10 causes. (iStock)
Below are the top 10 causes of death, which accounted for 75.4% of all deaths.
- Heart disease: 695,547
- Cancer: 605,213
- COVID-19: 416,893
- Accidents: 224,935
- Stroke: 162,890
- Chronic lower respiratory diseases: 142,342
- Alzheimer’s disease: 119,399
- Diabetes: 103,294
- Chronic liver disease and cirrhosis: 56,585
- Kidney disease: 54,358
COVID-19 was the third-leading cause of death on the CDC's latest list. (iStock)
The age-adjusted death rate has decreased for six of these causes between 1999 and 2021, with the sharpest declines seen for influenza and pneumonia (-55.3%), heart disease (-34.8%) and strokes (-33.3%), according to the report.
Not all causes of death have declined, however.
Alzheimer’s disease deaths rose by 88%, while unintentional injury deaths rose 83% over the time period, USAFacts noted.
Deaths overall rose 2.4% since the prior list, going from 3.38 million in 2020 to 3.46 million in 2021.
People age 85 and older have the highest mortality rate across 14 of the 16 leading causes of death, according to a new study. (iStock)
"Other causes of death may also factor into the rising death toll of 2021, namely those related to the COVID-19 pandemic — suicide and violent crimes, both of which have been on the rise in recent years," Dr. Brett Osborn, a Florida neurosurgeon and longevity expert who was not involved in the study, told Fox News Digital.
"I have witnessed this at the Level I trauma center where I operate, and it is paralleled in the statistics from the local health care district," he added.
People age 85 and older have the highest mortality rate across 14 of the 16 leading causes of death — with the exceptions of liver disease and homicide, which primarily affect younger groups.
Among genders, men had a higher mortality rate than women for all but two of the 17 leading causes of death.
Heart disease was the leading cause of death among U.S. adults in 2021. (iStock)
The data showed that men had a 61.9% higher rate of heart disease deaths and were more than 50% likely to die from an unintentional accident.
Women, however, were 47.5% more likely to die from Alzheimer’s disease.
There were some disparities among races and ethnicities, USAFacts noted.
Black or African American individuals had higher rates of heart disease and hypertension.
American Indians or Alaskan Natives were more likely to have unintentional injuries, chronic liver disease, cirrhosis and diabetes.
Native Hawaiians or other Pacific Islanders also had a higher occurrence of diabetes.
The CDC’s report is based on underlying causes of death listed on U.S. death certificates as determined by medical professionals, typically tied to a disease or injury.
"Obesity is a gateway disease to nearly all other age-related diseases, such a cardiovascular disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease, the latter of which has been on the rise proportional to the rising BMI (body mass index) of most Americans over the past 20 years," a doctor told Fox News Digital regarding the mortality data. (iStock)
The causes of death are categorized according to the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, which is maintained by the World Health Organization (WHO).
‘A call for change’
The CDC’s mortality cause data suggests that "the overall health of the United States is in bad shape, mentally and physically," Osborn said.
"COVID-19 ravaged the United States because nearly 75% of Americans are categorically overweight or obese by BMI (body mass index) standards," he noted.
The causes of death are categorized according to the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, which is maintained by the World Health Organization. (REUTERS/Denis Balibouse/File Photo)
"Obesity is a gateway disease to nearly all other age-related diseases, such a cardiovascular disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease, the latter of which has been on the rise proportional to the rising BMI of most Americans over the past 20 years," he said.
Unless adjustments are made, Osborn said, he believes the life expectancy of Americans will continue to decline, even as it has rebounded in similarly developed countries since the pandemic.
"Despite our access to state-of-the-art technology and forefront innovations, our health, individually and as a nation, continues to falter," the doctor said. "This is a call for change."
Fox News Digital reached out to USAFacts for comment on the findings.