Ways You’re Most Likely To Die at Every Age in America

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From the moment we’re born, one thing is certain: One day, we’ll die. Yes, we know it’s dark, but it’s an undeniable fact. Whether that day comes sooner or later depends on multiple factors, as the risks we face are different in every phase of life. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tracks these changing risks, highlighting the leading causes of death for Americans at various life stages. The data reveals that while accidents are a significant risk for the young, diseases become the predominant threat as we age. According to the latest CDC 2021 report, these are the leading causes of death for each age group in America. 

Editor’s note: If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts or a crisis, please reach out immediately to the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, previously known as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which offers 24/7 call, text, and chat access to trained crisis counselors who can help people experiencing suicidal, substance use, and/or mental health crisis, or any other kind of emotional distress. People can also call, text, or chat 988 if they are worried about a loved one who may need crisis support.

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Newborn

Birth Defects: 3,963 

Premature Birth: 2,946

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS): 1,459

The chances of dying are the highest on the first day of life. Save the Children reports that each year, around 11,300 newborns in the U.S. don’t survive past day one. According to the CDC data, birth defects are the leading cause of infant death, with one in 33 babies born with congenital malformations, deformations, and chromosomal abnormalities. The mother’s health, her medication and substance use, and the family’s medical history are all factors that could influence the occurrence of birth defects. Other significant causes of infant mortality include premature birth and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

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Ages 1 to 4

Unintentional Injury: 1,299 

Birth Defects: 412

Homicide: 309

Parents and caregivers of toddlers, particularly those aged one to four, need to be extra cautious about the risk of unintentional injuries, which are the leading cause of death in this age group. Drowning, especially in swimming pools, represents a significant concern, accounting for 36% of fatalities. Many of these tragic incidents occur in residential swimming pools. Enrolling toddlers in swimming lessons is a smart and effective preventive measure against such accidents, as it can equip them with basic water survival skills.

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Ages 5 to 9

Unintentional Injury: 827

Cancer: 347

Homicide: 188

As kids hit the 5 to 9 age range and gain a bit of independence heading to school by themselves, there’s a significant change in the risks they face. No longer is drowning the top accidental killer — instead, motor vehicle accidents take the lead. A gut-wrenching fact is that many of these tragedies are preventable. The CDC shares that 38% of kids under 10 who lost their lives in car wrecks weren’t buckled up properly, were missing seatbelts, or weren’t using the right car or booster seats. Nearly a quarter of child deaths in vehicle mishaps involved alcohol; in 63% of these cases, the child was in the car with a driver who’d had too much to drink.

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Ages 10 to 14

Unintentional Injury: 915

Suicide: 598

Cancer: 449

Hitting the 10 to 14 age range means more freedom but also more risks, with car accidents being the leading cause of death. Suicide is the second leading cause of death in this age group, with kids going through the tough middle school years filled with bullying and peer pressure. A 2021 National Institute of Mental Health report highlights that certain factors like ADHD, depression, family issues, school problems, and domestic violence increase suicide risks. Adults might miss the signs, so it’s crucial to take any mention of suicide seriously, no matter how casual it seems. Supporting kids through these years is vital for their safety and well-being.

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Ages 15 to 24

Unintentional Injury: 15,792

Homicide: 6,635

Suicide: 6,528

In the 15 to 24 age group, the main danger leading to death is unintentional injury, with car accidents claiming 7,270 lives. In 2021, a total of 3,058 teenagers died in motor vehicle crashes, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Homicide and suicide are also tragically high on this list. In 2021, 6,635 teens and young adults died in homicides, with most of them involving firearms.

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Ages 25 to 34

Unintentional Injury: 34,452

Suicide: 8,862

Homicide: 7,571

For those aged 25 to 34, unintentional injuries are still the leading cause of death, but this time, accidental poisonings take the lead, outpacing motor vehicle accidents. Overdose by prescription medications and alcohol accounts for 10,727 deaths, while 10,425 adults die of narcotic drug overdose. Suicide and homicide follow, taking second and third place, respectively, and highlighting a critical period where mental health and substance abuse issues need urgent attention. 

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Ages 35 to 44

Unintentional Injury: 36,444

COVID-19: 16,006

Heart Disease: 12,754

According to the latest CDC data from 2021, unintentional injuries led as the cause of death for this specific age group, with 36,444 fatalities, mainly from accidental poisonings and motor vehicle accidents. During this pandemic-impacted year, COVID-19 was the second leading cause of death in this age group, claiming 16,006 lives and demonstrating the virus’s severe impact at the time.

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Ages 45 to 54

COVID-19: 36,881

Heart Disease: 34,535

Cancer: 33,567

COVID-19 caused 7% of all deaths in 2021, and those ages 45 and 54 account for it, with 36,881 deaths in this group. While COVID-19 deaths have presumably decreased since then, the virus continues to be a leading cause of death in the United States. Heart disease follows as another major cause of death, with 34,535 cases indicating the onset of chronic health conditions in this demographic. 

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Ages 55 to 64

Cancer: 108,023

Heart Disease: 89,342

COVID-19: 73,725

In the 55 to 64 age range, cancer is the biggest cause of death, with 108,023 people affected. It’s the number one health issue for middle-aged Americans, outdoing other diseases. The most common types include colon cancer, lung cancer, prostate cancer, and bladder cancer.

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Ages 65 and older

Heart Disease: 553,214

Cancer: 446,354

COVID-19: 282,457

With 553,214 deaths among those age 65 and older, heart disease stands as the top cause of mortality for this age group, overtaking cancer. This issue looms large in the United States, making heart disease the leading cause of death across the nation. This condition, often called the “silent killer,” slowly builds its threat over decades as plaques accumulate in the artery walls, restricting blood flow. This not only reduces oxygen supply to vital organs like the brain and heart but can also lead to the formation of deadly blood clots. Detecting heart disease can be tough because it doesn’t always show clear external signs until it reaches a critical point, resulting in heart attacks, strokes, or heart failure.

This article was produced and syndicated by MediaFeed.

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