Fact Check

Causes of Death in the United States

A list of statistics showing the leading causes of death in the United States through June 2016 includes some questionable aspects.

Published Jun 22, 2016

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A list of statistics shows the leading causes of death in the United States through the first half of 2016.

A graphic purportedly showing the leading causes of death in the United States during the first half of 2016 was widely circulated on Facebook in June 2016, its most eye-catching feature being that the number one entry was abortion while the lowest-ranked entry was murder by firearm:

causes of death

The list was problematic in several aspects, however. First of all, the displayed figures for 2016
are simply projections based on past trends, as up-to-date information of this nature simply isn't available. The most recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) concerning causes of death tallies mortality data from 2014.

Second, although this list (put together by the web site Romans322.com) relies heavily upon mortality data compiled by the CDC, that organization does not record abortion as a cause of death. The leading causes of death in the United States in 2014, according to CDC, were heart disease, cancer, and respiratory disease:

  • Heart disease: 614,348
  • Cancer: 591,699
  • Chronic lower respiratory diseases: 147,101
  • Accidents (unintentional injuries): 136,053
  • Stroke (cerebrovascular diseases): 133,103
  • Alzheimer's disease: 93,541
  • Diabetes: 76,488
  • Influenza and pneumonia: 55,227
  • Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome, and nephrosis: 48,146
  • Intentional self-harm (suicide): 42,773

During that same year the FBI recorded 8,124 murders by firearms in the United States, a statistic that would indeed rank below all other entries on this list.

The usefulness of this information to make a point about gun issues is somewhat questionable, however.
None of the entries on the list save for the last involves intentional killing, while nearly every other entry on the list other than the last references some form of medical malady. It's an inescapable fact that everyone who manages to avoid being killed (intentionally or otherwise) by someone or something else first will eventually die of some sort of medical condition.

Dan Evon is a former writer for Snopes.