By the Numbers: The Geography of Death; July 2000; Scientific American Magazine; by Doyle; 1 Page(s)
The maps summarize information on more than 9.3 million white Americans whose deaths were recorded from 1988 to 1992. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, the deaths resulted from more than 2,000 causes, including AIDS, pneumonia, accidents and homicide. But the patterns on the maps show, more than anything else, the impact of the three most common causes: coronary heart disease, stroke and lung cancer, which together constitute 35 percent of all deaths in the U.S. (Mortality rates for blacks follow a somewhat similar geographical pattern.)
The three leading diseases, which tend to be concentrated in the Southeast, are responsible for much of the higher mortality in that region, where two major risk factors-cigarette smoking and hypertension-are prevalent. Women in some areas of the West began smoking before women in most other areas, hence the high mortality rates there. The low mortality rates in Utah trace to the Mormons; the low rates in the Dakotas, Minnesota and Wisconsin trace to the Lutherans. Both groups typically practice a conservative lifestyle, including avoidance of smoking and other self-destructive behaviors. The low rates in Florida reflect the migration of retirees from the North, who tend, as a group, to be healthier than those remaining behind.