Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS™) Fatal Injury Help Menu

5.3 Definitions for Years of Potential Life Lost

This section provides definitions of data elements in WISQARS Fatal’s years of potential life lost (YPLL) reports. The elements include census region / state of residence, year(s) of report, race, Hispanic origin, sex, and calculate YPLL from age. The advanced options include statistic reported, report subject, number of causes, and standard year (for age adjusting).

YPLL reports list causes using abbreviated names. To ensure you understand the meaning of these names, check the tables displaying the WISQARS abbreviated names and their corresponding full names:

5.3.1 Data Element: Census Region / State of Residence

Data reported by census region or state are based on where the deceased lived (state of residence). Census regions are as follows:

Census regions are as follows
Census Region States

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5.3.2 Data Element: Year(s) of Report

You can request a YPLL report for data from 1999 and later or for 1981 to 1998. If you desire a report for a single year, enter the same year in both of the Year(s) of Report fields (e.g., 1997 to 1997). Be aware that selecting a large number of years at a time may require a long response time. Also, note that you cannot request a report for 1999 and later and any year from 1981 to 1998. The external cause of injury coding for 1999 and later, based on the ICD-10 classification system, is notably different from external cause coding for 1998 and earlier years, based on the ICD-9 classification system. You may not be able to compare numbers of deaths and deaths rates computed for some external causes of injury based on 1999 and later data to those based on data from 1998 and earlier. Consequently, use caution when doing trend analysis of numbers of deaths and death rates across these years. For more information, see Data Sources.

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5.3.3 Data Element: Race

WISQARS Fatal reports race data in six categories:

  • All races
  • American Indian/Alaskan Native
  • Asian/Pacific Islander
  • Black
  • White
  • Other races.

For data from 1992 on, the Other Races category represents all non-white and non-black races and includes American Indian/Alaskan Native and Asian/Pacific Islander categories.

For data prior to 1992, National Center of Health Statistics applied the All Other Races category in the pre-1992 data applied to people who didn’t correspond to any of the other four categories and were limited to a few hundred cases per year (approximately 0.02%). Beginning in 1992, this category is imputed using the race category from the previous record. Because the All Other Races category was used before 1992, deaths from Other Races may not add up to the number of deaths for American Indian/Alaskan Native and Asian/Pacific Islander categories for the years prior to 1992.

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5.3.4 Data Element: Hispanic Origin

Hispanic origin includes persons of Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Central and South American, and other or unknown Spanish origin. Persons of Hispanic origin may be of any race.

In 1990, reporting of Hispanic origin on death certificates occurred in all but three states–Louisiana, New Hampshire, and Oklahoma. From 1990 through 1996, Hispanic origin data from those three states were excluded for those years when their reporting level was not sufficient for comparing with the other states.

In February of 2002, NCHS discovered a problem with its underlying mortality data concerning the number of Hispanics in Alabama. In that year there were 127 deaths originally coded as Hispanics that should have been coded as Non-Hispanic (see reference). The 127 Hispanics represent approximately 60% of all the Hispanic deaths in Alabama for 1990. As a result, we have changed all the Hispanic Origin data to “Unknown” for Alabama for 1990. For more information, see Vital Statistics of the United States, 1990, Volume II, Mortality, Part A.

Hispanic Origin data is missing or unknown for approximately 20% of the data from Connecticut for 1990. However this will not likely have a noticeable impact on the numbers reported. Additionally there was some miscoding of the underlying NCHS mortality data that was discovered for Connecticut in 1991. These miscodings concerned Mexicans who were coded as Puerto Ricans and Puerto Ricans who were coded as Mexicans (see reference). Since WISQARS reports ethnicity only as Hispanic, these miscoded data were not deemed to significantly impact the results from WISQARS. For more information, see Vital Statistics of the United States, 1990, Volume II, Mortality, Part A.

All states provided Hispanic origin data at sufficient levels for comparability starting in 1997. Including a state’s Hispanic origin data does not imply that Hispanic origin reporting for a state was at 100%, however. As a result, the number of deaths for Hispanics and non-Hispanics may not equal total deaths.

The table below shows the states that did not provide sufficient reporting of Hispanic origin data and the year(s) that their Hispanic data are excluded.

The table below shows the states that did not provide sufficient reporting of Hispanic origin data and the year(s) that their Hispanic data are excluded
States Year(s) Excluded
Louisiana 1990
New Hampshire 1990-1992
Oklahoma 1990-1996

When a state’s data were excluded from analysis, both the population and the number of deaths were excluded from any calculation.

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5.3.5 Data Element: Sex

Options for the sex category are males only, females only, or both.

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5.3.6 Data Element: Calculate YPLL from Age

This option identifies the standard age from which the years of potential life lost (YPLL) is calculated. The default choice is 65. This option also offers older ages in five-year increments up to age 85 (70, 75, 80, 85).

YPLL is calculated by subtracting the age at death from the standard year, and then summing the individual YPLL across each cause of death. For example, if three people died from a certain cause who were ages 2, 37, and 74, the YPLL-65 for that cause of death would be (65-2)+(65-37))=63+28=91. Note YPLL calculation does not include people who died at the standard age or older. For instance, choosing 65 as the standard age excludes people who died at age 65 or older from the calculation of YPLL-65.

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5.3.6 Advanced Options

Statistic Reported
This option allows you to request that the report display one of three statistics: the number of deaths, years of potential life lost (YPLL), the crude rate of YPLL per 100,000 population, and the age-adjusted rate of YPLL per 100,000. Note that after you request and view a report, you can download all three statistics plus the number of deaths–regardless of the statistic you requested..

Number of Causes
This option allows you to request that the report rank up to 20 causes of death. The default number of rankings is 10. Sometimes a specific cause (such as homicide) may not fall in the top 10 causes. If you want a specific cause displayed, you may need to increase the rankings.

Standard Year for Age Adjusting
Age adjusting
is useful when comparing injury rates. The standard year identifies the year to which you want to age adjust. It is not important to which year you age adjust but only that each rate that you compare is adjusted to the same year. For data prior to 1999, age adjusting was typically done to the year 1940. Starting with 1999 mortality data, the year 2000 is the default age to which to adjust. The user can additionally select the years 1970, 1980, and 1990 for any injury mortality request.

Report Subject
You can limit the scope of your request by using this option to limit the categories of deaths that are used to create the report. Valid options include all deaths, all injury deaths, all unintentional deaths, and all violence-related deaths. Additionally you can choose a specific cause of injury. The categories are defined by specifying the cause / mechanism as well as the intent / manner of the injury (for more information, see 5.1.1 ).

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WISQARS Fatal Injury Reports