Posted on April 26, 2018

Blacks See Major Drop in Premature Death Rates as Racial Disparity Diminishes

Maria Castellucci, Modern Healthcare, April 25, 2018


Premature deaths among black individuals declined by 28% from 1990 to 2014, while white individuals saw a 4% drop over the same period, according to the study published Wednesday in PLOS One and sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The improvement in premature death rates among blacks is largely due to declines in heart disease, HIV and cancer death for adults in their 30s and 40s, the study said.


Although the gap has narrowed, blacks are still more likely to die prematurely than whites. The premature death rate among blacks of all ages was 15,182 per 100,000 people in 2014 while the rate was 13,541 for whites of all ages.

Black males ages 1-19 are more likely to die prematurely than white males, mostly due to homicide. Older black men are also more vulnerable to premature death from heart disease.

Both white and black older adults saw rises in premature death because of “other” causes, which the study defined mostly as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

“If current trends persist this gap should continue to narrow,” Dr. Donald Burke, senior author and dean of the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public Health, said in a statement.

The study defined premature death as a death that occurred before the expected age. Life expectancies were defined using the 2013 Global Burden of Disease study from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. Mortality data was taken from the Mortality Information and Research Analytics system at the University of Pittsburgh.

[Editor’s Note: The study published by PLOS One does not appear to be available on the Internet yet.]