Historical Leading Causes of Death

July 6, 2007

We’re all fairly familiar with the leading causes of death today: heart disease, cancer, chronic lower respiratory diseases, accidents, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, influenza/Pneumonia, kidney disease, and septicemia. (As an aside, you can querythe leading causes of death in detail from 1981 to present at CDC’s WONDER database.) But what were the leading causes of death in the last century?

In 1950 we find the top 10 causes of death were, in order, heart disease, cancer, stroke, accidents, infant death, influenza/pneumonia, tuberculosis, arteriosclerosis, kidney disease, and diabetes. Skipping farther back to 1920 the leading causes are influenza/pneumonia, heart disease, tuberculosis, stroke, kidney disease, cancer, accidents, diarrhea/enteritis, premature birth, and childbirth related conditions.

The earliest data, that from 1900, give influenza/pneumonia, tuberculosis, diarrhea/enteritis, heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, accidents, cancer, senility, and diphtheria as the leading causes of death.

The leading causes of death from 1900 through 1998 is located here.


June 1, 2007

Tuberculosis has been in the news lately because of the story concerning the man with “extensively drug resistant” tuberculosis (XDR TB) who has been quarantined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

The National Center for Health Statistics does not track tuberculosis cases. That is done by the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention. An online database of TB cases can be accessed here.

We do track deaths from tuberculosis, XDR and otherwise.

1999  1119

2000  901

2001  875

2002  892 

2003  791

2004  739

Reported cases of tuberculosis can be found here.

Links to various federal and state regulations governing the quarantine of patients are here.