The Most Unusual Causes of Death By State

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1. Alabama
> Cause of death: Accidental discharge of firearms
> No. deaths 2001-2010: 348
> Age-adjusted mortality rate: 0.77 per 100,000
> Mortality rate compared to national: 3.5

The ICD code for “accidental discharge of firearms” clearly does not cover all forms of death caused by a gun, but it also does not cover all accidental deaths caused by gunfire. Several other categories, including “other and unspecified nontransport accidents,” “discharge of firearms, undetermined intent,” include these types of accidents. Despite this drawback in this sort of determination, Alabama’s age-adjusted mortality rate from accidental discharge of firearms is 3.5 times higher than the national rate. Ten other states (Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, West Virginia, and Wyoming) have rates at least twice the national average, with the largest difference represented by Louisiana’s 3.9.

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2. Alaska
> Cause of death: Water, air and space, and other and unspecified transport accidents
> No. deaths 2001-2010: 270
> Age-adjusted mortality rate: 4.1 per 100,000
> Mortality rate compared to national: 6.7

Transportation in Alaska is not easy. It is a massive state, covering an area roughly one-fifth the size of all 48 lower states. Much of the state is inaccessible by roads, and people need to rely on sea and air transportation to move great distances. It is understandable, then, that the mortality rate from accidents related to these forms of travel would be much higher in Alaska than the rest of the U.S. In fact, this cause of death is 6.7 times higher than the national average. Similarly, mortality related to “accidental drowning and submersion” is 3.3 times higher than the rate nationwide.

3. Arizona
> Cause of death: Discharge of firearms, undetermined intent
> No. deaths 2001-2010: 147
> Age-adjusted mortality rate: 0.25 per 100,000
> Mortality rate compared to national: 2.8

Like Alabama, this category only covers some gun deaths. In Arizona, this cause of death is reported 2.8 times more frequently than the national average. Four other states (Alaska, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Tennessee) are at least twice the national average, led by Alaska’s 5.7.

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4. Arkansas
> Cause of death: Discharge of firearms, undetermined intent
> No. deaths 2001-2010: 73
> Age-adjusted mortality rate: 0.28 per 100,000
> Mortality rate compared to national: 3.1

Arkansans are 3.1 times more likely to die from this reported cause of death compared to the national average. Arkansas also has the fifth highest firearm death rate in the country according to the CDC. In 2013, there were 16.8 gun deaths per 100,000 people, just below Alaska, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama.

 

5. California
> Cause of death: Hyperplasia of prostate
> No. deaths 2001-2010: 937
> Age-adjusted mortality rate: 0.3 per 100,000
> Mortality rate compared to national: 2.0

“Hyperplasia of prostate” refers to “a benign (noncancerous) condition in which an overgrowth of prostate tissue pushes against the urethra and the bladder, blocking the flow of urine.” This is commonly referred to as BPH. Californians are twice as likely to die from this than people in the nation as a whole. Vermont (3.0) and the District of Columbia (2.2) have similarly high ratios. The age-adjusted mortality rate from this cause of death in California is 0.3 per 100,000, and likely represents consequences of surgery to treat BPH, or urinary tract infections and renal failure secondary to long-term or poorly treated disease.