African-American rates of premature mortality are significantly higher for many of the top causes of death. The largest disparity is in the YPLL rate from heart disease, which is nearly 150 percent higher for African-Americans compared to whites. It is also notable that homicide is the third leading cause for African-Americans, while only a small factor for white and Latino populations. Deaths from premature birth disorders are also a much larger problem for African-Americans than other groups.
There are some exceptions to this pattern. For example, whites have the highest rates of premature mortality from suicide and chronic lower respiratory disease (driven by COPD), and Latinos have the highest rate due to chronic liver disease.
Methodology note: The SES index ranking was developed by Common Ground Health and calculated using a variety of socioeconomic indicators from the American Community Survey including average income, poverty rates, education levels, housing value, and homeownership. Each ZIP code is assigned a socioeconomic (SES) index ranking from 1 to 5. The lower SES ZIP codes tend to have lower average income, higher poverty rates, lower prevalence of college degrees, etc.
Methodology note: Years of potential life lost (YPLL) is a widely used measure to assess the rate of premature mortality. YPLL places a larger weight on the deaths of younger people, in contrast with overall mortality statistics which are dominated by deaths of the elderly. The YPLL rates in Common Ground Health analyses are derived using 75 years as the baseline. A death at age 65 has YPLL of 10, where as a death at age 35 has a YPLL of 40. The rates are calculated per 100,000 population and are age-sex adjusted to account for differences in population distribution.
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