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Current Trends Update: Years of Potential Life Lost Before Age 65 -- United States, 1988 and 1989

Final mortality data from CDC's National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) indicate that in 1988 deaths in the United States accounted for 12,276,554 years of potential life lost before age 65 (YPLL) (Table 1)--a total consistent with provisional data reported previously (12,281,741 YPLL (1)). Provisional data indicate that for 1989 there were 12,370,499 YPLL.

From 1988 to 1989, the YPLL rate for U.S. residents of all ages decreased 0.2%, from 4994 YPLL per 100,000 persons to 4983 per 100,000, respectively. In 1989, unintentional injuries remained the leading cause of YPLL (18%), followed by cancers at all sites (15%), suicide and homicide (12%), diseases of the heart (11%), congenital anomalies (5%), and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) (5%).

From 1988 to 1989, YPLL decreased for seven causes of death and increased for six (Table 1). The YPLL rate decreased 8% for diseases of the heart, 7% for cerebrovascular disease, and 6% each for pneumonia/influenza, chronic liver disease and cirrhosis, and unintentional injuries. YPLL increased 25% for HIV infection/AIDS, 14% for prematurity, 6% for diabetes mellitus, 4% for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and 4% for suicide and homicide. In 1989, suicide and homicide together were the third leading cause of YPLL, compared with fourth in 1988. Reported by: Applications Br, Div of Surveillance and Epidemiology, Epidemiology Program Office, CDC.

Editorial Note

Editorial Note: Crude death rates weight all deaths equally (i.e., the rates provide an estimate of the proportion of a population that dies during a specific period); in comparison, YPLL emphasizes deaths among younger persons and provides a measure of the burden of premature mortality (2). YPLL decreased steadily from 1979 through 1987; however, the 1% increase from 1987 to 1988 (1) and the small decrease from 1988 to 1989 suggest that premature mortality has been stable during the past 3 years.

In 1989, the increase in YPLL associated with HIV infection/AIDS reflected the growing impact of HIV infection and AIDS mortality on young adults (3). The recent increase in YPLL for homicide and suicide indicates the increased occurrence of these problems in adolescents and/or young adults, particularly black males (4).


  1. CDC. Years of potential life lost before ages 65 and 85--United States, 1987 and 1988. MMWR 1990;39:20-2.

  2. CDC. Premature mortality in the United States. MMWR 1986;35(no. 2S).

  3. CDC. Mortality attributable to HIV infection/AIDS--United States, 1981-1990. MMWR 1991;40:41-4.

  4. CDC. Homicide among young black males--United States, 1978-1987. MMWR 1990;39:869-73.

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