A new map from the CDC shows what the most distinctive cause of death is in each state.
Statistics can tell us a lot about the world around us, but they don’t often get the full picture. That’s why the Center for Disease Control and Prevention has mapped out the most distinctive cause of death in each state across the U.S. With the new map, it’s easy to see how geography affects mortality statistics across the country, and some of the results may even surprise you. You can view the map here.
In many states, the most distinctive cause of death was somewhat predictable. In Maine, North Dakota, and Wyoming, for example, the flu killed more people than any other cause. In remote states like Idaho and Alaska, boat and small plane accidents claimed more lives than in any other state. And states with heavy mining industries, including Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Kentucky, all reported lung disease, or pneumoconiosis, due to dust inhalation as the most distinctive cause of death.
There were some other causes that were less intuitive, however. Sepsis, or a life-threatening complication caused by an infection, was the most distinctive cause of death in New Jersey, while death by “legal intervention,” or at the hand of a law enforcement officer, was the most distinctive cause in Oregon, Nevada, and New Mexico.
The map helps the medical community isolate common causes of death and better allocate resources to the areas that need them most. The map’s accompanying report stated, “Although chronic-disease-prevention efforts should continue to emphasize the most common national conditions, an outlier map such as this one should also be of interest to public health professionals.”
It is important to note that “most distinctive” does not necessarily mean “most common.” In Florida’s case, HIV was both the most distinctive and the most common cause of death, killing about 15,000 people a year. In Louisiana, the most distinctive cause of death was syphilis, but the disease only claims about 22 lives a year. Because that figure is higher than in any other state in the country, however, Louisiana wins the title for syphilis fatalities.
The map can help medical professionals shift their attention to places where it is needed, but it also starts an interesting conversation about regional health issues throughout the country.