Ky. has one of 5 highest death rates in U.S.; UK public-health dean calls it most ‘comprehensive, inclusive’ measure of health

Kentucky is one of the top five states for the highest death rates, according to a new study that compared mortality patterns between the five states with the highest and lowest death rates.

Donna Arnett, dean of the University of Kentucky College of Public Health, in an e-mail called death rates the most “comprehensive, inclusive” measure of overall health status.

Kentucky was joined by Alabama, Mississippi, Oklahoma and West Virginia for the five states with the highest death rates. California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Minnesota and New York were the five states with the lowest death rates.

It’s no secret that Kentucky struggles in just about every area of health, ranking 49th in senior health and 45th in adult health, according to the latest America’s Health Ranking Report. And even in areas where the state has made some progress, such as cancer screening, outcomes are still pretty dismal. So it should come as no surprise that the state ranks high in death rates.

Using 2017 data, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study compared the average age-adjusted death rates by sex, race and ethnicity, as well as the five leading causes of death between each group of states. Age specific death rates were given as well.

Click on any chart to see a larger version

It found that the average age-adjusted death rate for the five states with the highest rate (926.8 deaths per 100,000 people) was 49 percent higher than the overall rate for the five states with the lowest death rates (624 per 100,000).

Compared to the national average of 731 deaths per 100,000 people, the average death rate for the states with the highest rate was 27% higher, while the average death rate for the states with the lowest rates was 15% lower.

The death rates for ages 25-34 and 35-44 for the states with the highest death rates were more than double compared with the states with the lowest rates. The smallest percentage difference in rates was for persons aged 85 and older.

The average age-adjusted rates were 39% higher for whites and 32% higher for blacks in the five states with the highest death rates compared to the five states with the lowest rates, but they were 27% lower for Hispanics.

Among states with the highest death rates, average age-adjusted death rates were 46% higher for heart disease; 29% higher for cancer; and 39% higher for stroke, compared to the states with the lowest rates. Rates for chronic lower respiratory disease were double and unintentional injuries were nearly double in the highest death rate states compared to the states with the lowest rates.