(December 2002) In 2000, there were about 2.4 million deaths in the United States. Heart disease and cancer accounted for over half of these deaths, mostly at older ages. Among younger adults, ages 25 to 34, the leading cause of death is accidents, followed by suicide, homicide, cancer, heart disease, and human immunodeficiency virus infection (HIV). Four of the top six causes of death — accidents, suicide, homicide, and HIV — are closely linked to behavior that increases the likelihood of injury, disease, or mortality. These causes of death are of special concern to policymakers because they are viewed as preventable through public health initiatives.

See Graph (PDF:4.9 KB)

In 2000, African American adults were more likely to die from accidents, homicide, and HIV compared with either whites or Hispanics. Among people ages 25 to 34, the non-Hispanic black homicide rate in 2000 was 44 deaths per 100,000, compared with 15 deaths per 100,000 among Hispanics and only 4 deaths per 100,000 among non-Hispanic whites. The death rate for HIV was 29 per 100,000 among non-Hispanic blacks, 7 per 100,000 among Hispanics, and 3 per 100,000 among non-Hispanic whites. The suicide rate was the only cause that was lower among blacks (10) than it was for whites (15). Higher death rates among minorities, particularly among those infected with HIV, stem in part from their limited access to health insurance, and consequently, to medical care.


R.N. Anderson, “Deaths: Leading Causes for 2000,” National Vital Statistics Reports 50, no. 16 (2002): Table 1.