Special Report

37 Counties Where People Die Young

Life expectancy in the United States has increased steadily over the course of the past century. Longer lifespans are perhaps the ultimate bellwether of progress as they are largely due to medical advancements and overall improvements in the standard of living.

However, while Americans live longer today than they did 100 years ago, a rising incidence of alcohol poisoning, suicide, and certain diseases — especially among white men — has hindered this upward trend in recent years.

American lifespans vary considerably by geography. 24/7 Wall St. reviewed total mortality data in U.S. counties from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention — specifically, the share of each county’s deaths a year that are of people younger than 35 years old. In Kusilvak, Alaska, nearly one-third of all deaths are of people people younger than 35 years — the highest such share in the nation. Nationwide, just 3.4% of all deaths are of people younger than 35.

Click here to see the 37 counties where people die young.

Click here to see the 17 counties where people die old.

This list consists of 37 counties, boroughs, and other areas tracked by the Census Bureau where at least 10% of deaths are of younger people.

Based on prevailing mortality rates, a child born in the United States today is expected to live around 78.5 years. Therefore, death before the age of 35 is extremely unusual and unexpected — what’s more, often such deaths are preventable.

In the United States, the rate of infant mortality — babies dying at or before one year old — is very high compared to other developed nations. Of all U.S. deaths before the age of 35, 23% are infants. Infant mortality often reflects a county’s overall health, and in areas with generally poorer health outcomes, infant mortality is higher.

Accidents make up much of the remaining deaths of the younger population. Although young people are far less vulnerable to diseases that afflict older people, many behave more recklessly than their older peers and are therefore perhaps more susceptible to accidents. The three most common causes of death among children and adults 10 to 35 years old are car crashes, drowning, and poisoning.

For a host of reasons, the most economically depressed areas in the United States are frequently Indian reservations. The populations of American Indians living in these areas tend to report some of the nation’s worst health outcomes overall, including premature death. Of the 37 areas reviewed on this list, a majority of residents in 20 of the areas identify as American Indian or Alaskan Native.

To determine the counties where a high percentage of overall deaths are of young people, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the number of deaths of people under 35 between 2011 and 2013 as a percentage of all deaths from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Life expectancy data on a county level came from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation for 2010. Additionally, we considered median household incomes from the United States Census Bureau’s five-year American Community Survey. Infant mortality figures, as well as mortality data for various age groups, were based on five-year estimates from 2009-2013 and are from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics.

These are the counties where people die young.