Saturday, April 18, 2009

Cause of Death

Since I got into an argument over how dangerous guns are, I thought I would estimate my risk of death from a whole bunch of sources. I found a good list of causes of death by a whole bunch of sources separated by race and sex. This is the white male top causes of death in number of deaths per 100 000 men per year:

1. Malignant Neoplasms(cancer) 222.3
2. Heart Disease 258.0
3. Chronic Lower Respiratory Disease 52.8
4. Cerebrovascular disease 44.7
5. Diabetes 26.5
6. Pneumonia 23.0
7. Motor Vehicle Accidents 22.2
8. Suicide 19.6(11.5 by firearm)
9. Alzheimers 19.4
10. Renal Failure 15.8
11. Accidental Poisoning/exposure to noxious substance 11.3
12. Septicemia 11.2
13. Parkinson's 10.4
14. Falls 8.6
15. Pneumonitis 7.6
16. Alcoholic Liver Disease 6.6
17. Aortic Aneurysm 6.6
18. Hypertension and hypertensive renal disease 6.6
19. Homicide 5.3(3.5 by firearm)
20. HIV 3.6

I didn't include several sources as they seemed to be a bunch of unrelated diseases, and I lumped together heart disease and cancer. If I had included each individual type of cancer, 16 types of cancer each would have been higher on the list than HIV.

Interesting things I ran into: As a white male my risk of death from homicide is low. It is in fact much much lower than this table suggests. In New York City for example 70% of murder victims had a previous arrest history. Quite interesting though is to compare the white male, and black male number though. The black male number is 37, nearly eight times as high. If you are white and around a reasonably good crowd worrying about whether you will get murdered is silly, your risk is so low there is nothing you can do to lower it more. If you are a black male however it probably is something you should worry about. Still not as risky as smoking (I didn't include the lung cancer death rate but for a white male 68.7 it is and for a black male it is 86.4), but as far as preventable causes of death go it is something you should probably work on.

The male-Female gap on accidents and murder is pretty much what you would expect. As a white female you are half as likely to die of an accident than a male, and your risk of being murdered is something like 60% lower than if they were male. What is perhaps more surprising is just how much better women have it on other issues. They die less because of just about every single cause. The only exceptions I could find on the list were Pregnancy, Alzheimer's, breast cancer, and cancer for body parts males don't typically have. I guess they really do earn those extra 7 years.

Another interesting thing to note is the gap between deaths from drinking, and smoking. Smoking leads to lung cancer, as well as heart disease, various respiratory diseases, several other types of cancer such as bladder cancer and esophageal cancer. The vast majority of lung cancers however are from smoking so lets just look at that. The death rate is 52.7 averaged over all races and sexes. Now compare that to the drinking numbers. Alcoholic Liver Disease is pretty clearly the result of alcohol, that has a death rate of 4.2. Now, alcohol and cancer is a much more sticky subject than tobacco and cancer so estimating the percentage of deaths from alcohol is a real pain. However lets just go out on a limb and say all cancer of the esophagus(4.4) as well as of the lip oral cavity and pharynx(2.5) are the result of alcohol(in reality both of these can be caused by smoking too). There may be a minor component to other types of cancer, but it is so heavily argued that it clearly isn't all that big a component. Of course alcohol also leads to murders and accidents. This sounds worse than it actually is, even if as many as 80% of accidents(39.1) and murders(10.5) are the result of alcohol the death rate of alcohol is lower than that by lung cancer alone. Add in other causes of death related to smoking such as whatever percentage of cardiovascular disease it causes, chronic lower respiratory disease(42.3), bladder cancer(4.3) and emphysema(4.3) and it is pretty clear that smoking has the far greater death rate.

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