Age and Cause

Leading Causes of Preventable Death by Age

The average number of preventable deaths in 2020 across all ages was 2,001. However, this average is far exceeded during the prime of life, from 21 to 67. Because preventable injury deaths often occur to young healthy people, many victims never have a chance to graduate college and start their careers, while others leave behind young families.

For teens and young adults, this is driven largely by motor-vehicle crashes.

Poisoning was the leading cause of preventable death for all ages, combined, for the eighth consecutive year and was the leading cause of preventable death for every age from 22 to 67. This is largely due to the opioid epidemic affecting millions of people in the United States.

On a typical day in 2020, 175 people died from preventable poisonings due to opioid drugs, accounting for 64,183 deaths in 2020. An additional 4,447 people died in 2020 from intentional opioid overdoses or overdoses where the intent was undetermined.

Deaths fluctuate in the average range between ages 67 and 83 before briefly spiking again, driven by older adult falls.

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Source: National Safety Council (NSC) analysis of National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) mortality data for 2020, as compiled from data provided by the 57 vital statistics jurisdictions through the Vital Statistics Cooperative Program. Rates are NSC estimates based on data from NCHS and the U.S. Census Bureau. See the Technical Appendix for the 10th revision of International Classification of Diseases codes for the leading causes and comparability with prior years.

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