Special Report

$1.1 Trillion: What the 10 Leading Causes of Death Cost the U.S. Economy

Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released its estimated causes of death for 2010. The 10 leading causes of death in the U.S. accounted for 75% of the nearly 2.5 million deaths in 2010. Overall costs for the top 10 causes of death topped $1.1 trillion in 2007, the last fully reported year for all causes. 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the causes to determine how much they cost and to reflect how efficiently they are being treated.

The overall cost for the top 10 causes of death, which includes direct medical care and the indirect loss of productivity, is far greater when the lost wages of family members are taken into account. Since 2000, the overall cost of the top 10 causes of death has increased by an estimated 35%. During this same time, the death rate from these diseases and injuries has decreased by 13.5%.

In some of the areas, spending to treat the disease has been very efficient. For example, the costs attributable to heart disease and stroke (two closely related diseases) have declined both due to decreasing deaths and improvements in the efficiency of care.

In other areas, however, costs have gone up disproportionately compared to the decreases in death rate. For example, while the cost to treat diabetes has risen by 30%, the death rate dropped by only 11%. Of course, when taking lives saved into account, it is tough to decide how much is too much to spend.

Finally, some areas continue to increase in both cost and rate of death. Alzheimer’s disease deaths have increased by more than 50% over the past decade, and total costs have more than doubled. This is likely a function of an aging population and very limited success in treatment.

24/7 Wall St. reviewed the 10 leading causes of death to determine how much they cost and how effectively they’re being treated. We used yearly estimates from the CDC to examine changes in death rates between 2000 and 2010. We also examined data from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), CDC and several national health organizations focused on individual diseases to determine the direct costs for medical care and procedures and the indirect cost of death and lost productivity, as well as to reflect how the leading causes of death individually affect the U.S. economy. The costs for each cause of death are based on the last fully reported year for all causes, 2007. More recent estimates on costs were also referenced when available.

These are the 10 leading causes of death and what they cost the American economy.

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