Alabama ranks third in premature death: opioids, smoking, diabetes to blame

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The opioid epidemic, smoking, and diabetes are driving the increase premature death in rates in Alabama,  despite the fact premature death rates are falling across the country as a whole.

In a new study published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association found Alabama ranked third-worst in premature death, or dying between the ages of 20 to 55, behind only West Virginia and Mississippi respectively.

Jama study

Alabama results [Photo Credit: JAMA]

Meanwhile, nationally premature death rates have decreased over the past 16 years. In 1990, 745 per every 100,000 people died early. By 2016, that number decreased to 578 per 100,000 people.
For the study, researchers analyzed data from the Global Burden of Disease (GBD) study, a research tool to quantify health loss from hundreds of diseases, injuries, and risk factors, so that health systems can be improved and disparities can be eliminated. 
The GBD has collected U.S. data since 1990 from data sources including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys and state inpatient databases. Researchers analyzed the data from 1990 to 2016 to identify specific state trends and compiled the probability of death among three age groups: 0 to 20, 20 to 55 and 55 to 90.

Specifically the study tracked 333 causes and 84 risk factors for premature death and disability.

Jama graphic

[Photo Credit: JAMA]

“In terms of health outcomes, the United States is not united,” said Dr. Howard Koh, who co-authored an editorial accompanying the new study.

Koh explained that a reason for the increasing death rate in some states, like Alabama, were ‘diseases of despair,’ including substance-use disorders. In Alabama, the combined years of life lost to opioid misuse, across all age groups studied, increased by a whopping 900+ percent.

The 10 states with the highest probability of premature death: Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and West Virginia.

“Overall the nation and some of our states are falling behind other, less developed countries,” Ali Mokdad, a University of Washington epidemiologist who co-wrote the study, said in a statement. “The strain on America’s health resources is getting worse, and the need for prevention services and greater access to and quality of medical care is increasing.”

Mokdad’s colleague, director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington Dr. Chris Murray, who also co-authored the study, agrees.

“To an increasing degree, overweight, obesity, and sugary diets are driving up health-care costs and are costing Americans years of healthy life. They are undermining progress toward better health,” added Murray. “We are seeing dangerous disparities among states. Unless and until leaders of our health care system work together to mitigate risks, such as tobacco, alcohol, and diet more Americans will die prematurely, and in many cases, unnecessarily.”

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