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The Leading Causes of Death in the US for 2020

Educational Objective
To identify the key insights or developments described in this article
1 Credit CME

Vital statistics data provide the most complete assessment of annual mortality burden and contribute key measurements of the direct and indirect mortality burden during a public health pandemic. While mortality statistics have historically been produced annually, the COVID-19 pandemic introduced a pressing need for the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) National Vital Statistics System (NVSS) to rapidly release reliable provisional mortality data. Provisional estimates indicate a 17.7% increase in the number of deaths in 2020 (the increase in the age-adjusted rate was 15.9%) compared with 2019, with increases in many leading causes of death.1 The provisional leading cause-of-death rankings for 2020 indicate that COVID-19 was the third leading cause of death in the US behind heart disease and cancer.1

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Article Information

Corresponding Author: Farida Ahmad, MPH, Division of Health Care Statistics, National Center for Health Statistics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 3311 Toledo Rd, Hyattsville, MD 20782 (FBAhmad@cdc.gov).

Published Online: March 31, 2021. doi:10.1001/jama.2021.5469

Conflict of Interest Disclosures: None reported.

Disclaimer: The findings and conclusions in this report are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Additional Contributions: We are grateful for the efforts of vital statistics jurisdictions in their continued collaboration with the National Center for Health Statistics and provision of data during the COVID-19 pandemic. We thank the staff of the Division of Vital Statistics for coding and reviewing data, providing continuous database maintenance, and producing timely analysis.

References
1.
Ahmad  FB , Cisewski  JA , Miniño  A , Anderson  RN . Provisional Mortality Data—United States, 2020. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. Published March 31, 2021. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/70/wr/mm7014e1.htm?s_cid=mm7014e1_w
2.
World Health Organization.  International Statistical Classification of Diseases, Tenth Revision (ICD-10). World Health Organization; 1992.
3.
National Center for Health Statistics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Vital Statistics System: instructions for classification of underlying and multiple causes of death—2021. Accessed March 26, 2021. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/nvss/manuals/2a-2021.htm
4.
Heron  M .  Deaths: leading causes for 2017.   Natl Vital Stat Rep. 2019;68(6):1-77.PubMedGoogle Scholar
5.
Kochanek  KD , Xu  JQ , Arias  E . Mortality in the United States, 2019: NCHS data brief, no. 395. National Center for Health Statistics. Accessed March 22, 2021. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db395.htm
6.
Gerberding  JL .  Measuring pandemic impact: vital signs from vital statistics.   Ann Intern Med. 2020;173(12):1022-1023. doi:10.7326/M20-6348 PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref
7.
Arias  E , Tejada-Vera  B , Ahmad  F .  Vital Statistics Rapid Release: Provisional Life Expectancy Estimates for January Through June, 2020: Report No. 10. National Center for Health Statistics; 2021.
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