Special Report

The Leading Causes of Death for Every Age Group in America

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What do most Americans die from? While heart disease is the No. 1 killer for people in the U.S. overall – it claimed 696,962 lives in 2020, the most recent year for which data is available – it otherwise depends on how old you are.

To identify the leading causes of death for all age groups in America, 24/7 Tempo reviewed the data table “10 Leading Causes of Death, United States” from the web-based Injury and Statistics Query and Reporting System maintained by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Death counts are for 2020.

Unintentional injury is the single leading cause of death for Americans ages 1-44. That includes drug overdoses (recorded in the category of accidental poisonings), which have been increasing at a frightening rate. (In 2020, there were 91,799 fatal overdoses in this country, up more than 21,000 from the previous year.) Other major types of deaths from unintentional injury are those caused by motor vehicle accidents, followed by accidents of unspecified kinds, then drownings and falls. (These are the fastest-growing causes of death in America.)

Aside from unintentional injury, the other two leading causes of death in teenagers and adults ages 15-34 are homicide and suicide, although the rates of these violent deaths are far lower than overdose death rates. Suicide is also, sadly, the second most common cause of death in 10- to 14-year-olds.

Click here to learn the leading causes of death for every age group in America

Heart disease and malignant neoplasms (cancerous tumors) are two of the top three causes of death for adults ages 35 and up. And in 2020, COVID-19 was the third leading cause of death for adults aged 55 and up – though fatal cases of the disease have since decreased significantly. (This is the COVID-19 final count: states with the most deaths per capita.)

Age <1
> Leading cause of death: Congenital anomalies (4,043)
> 2nd leading cause: Short gestation (3,141)
> 3rd leading cause: SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) (1,389)

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Ages 1-4
> Leading cause of death: Unintentional injury (1,153)
> 2nd leading cause: Congenital anomalies (382)
> 3rd leading cause: Homicide (311)

Ages 5-9
> Leading cause of death: Unintentional injury (685)
> 2nd leading cause: Malignant neoplasms (382)
> 3rd leading cause: Congenital anomalies (171)

Ages 10-14
> Leading cause of death: Unintentional injury (881)
> 2nd leading cause: Suicide (581)
> 3rd leading cause: Malignant neoplasms (410)

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Ages 15-24
> Leading cause of death: Unintentional injury (15,117)
> 2nd leading cause: Homicide (6,466)
> 3rd leading cause: Suicide (6,062)

Ages 25-34
> Leading cause of death: Unintentional injury (31,315)
> 2nd leading cause: Suicide (8,454)
> 3rd leading cause: Homicide (7,125)

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Ages 35-44
> Leading cause of death: Unintentional injury (31,057)
> 2nd leading cause: Heart disease (12,177)
> 3rd leading cause: Malignant neoplasms (10,730)

Ages 45-54
> Leading cause of death: Malignant neoplasms (34,589)
> 2nd leading cause: Heart disease (34,169)
> 3rd leading cause: Unintentional injury (27,819)

Ages 55-64
> Leading cause of death: Malignant neoplasms (110,243)
> 2nd leading cause: Heart disease (88,551)
> 3rd leading cause: COVID-19 (42,090)

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Ages 65+
> Leading cause of death: Heart disease (556,665)
> 2nd leading cause: Malignant neoplasms (440,753)
> 3rd leading cause: COVID-19 (282,836)

All Ages
> Leading cause of death: Heart disease (696,962)
> 2nd leading cause: Malignant neoplasms (602,350)
> 3rd leading cause: COVID-19 (350,831)

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