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Changes in Premature Mortality -- United States, 1979-1986

Premature mortality in the United States, as measured in total years of potential life lost (YPLL) before age 65 (1), has been analyzed for data collected annually since 1979.* The overall trend from 1979 to 1986 was toward lower YPLL and YPLL rates, even though the number and rate of YPLL increased from 1984 to 1986 (Table V, page 45).

The total number of YPLL decreased by 6.0%, and the rate of YPLL per 1,000 persons fell by 13.3% during the period 1979-1986 (Table 1). The greatest absolute rate decline from 1979 to 1986 was in YPLL due to unintentional injuries (Figure 1). The ranking of the leading causes of YPLL changed only slightly from 1979 to 1986, with the exception of the addition of the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) (Table 1). Fewer than five AIDS deaths were recorded in 1979; however, by 1986, AIDS had become the eighth leading cause of YPLL and accounted for 2.0% of total YPLL.

From 1979 to 1986, the rate of YPLL decreased for ten of the leading causes of death and increased for three. Unintentional injuries accounted for the largest portion of the decrease (30.0%) among the causes of death with rate decreases. Most of the decline in injuries occurred between 1980 and 1982 and is attributable to a decrease in motor vehicle-related deaths in the 15- to 24-year age group. Prematurity (respiratory distress syndrome and disorders relating to short gestation and unspecified low birthweight) had the largest relative decline in rate of YPLL per 1,000 persons. In large part, this decline was due to a greater than one-third reduction in the rate of infant deaths due to respiratory distress syndrome. Prematurity (um-17.4%) and diseases of the heart (um-14.0%) followed injuries in contributing to the overall decline in YPLL rates from 1979 to 1986. Reported by: Epidemiologic Studies Br, Div of Surveillance and Epidemiologic Studies, Epidemiology Program Office, CDC.


  1. Centers for Disease Control. Premature mortality in the United States: public health issues in the use of years of potential life lost. MMWR 1986;35(suppl 2S). *The period for which U.S. mortality data coded according to the International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision, (ICD-9) are available.

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