How We Die PART II


What's most likely to kill you at your age? Which causes of death would have been more lethal to you when you were 10 years younger? What about when you're 20 years older? How, ultimately, might you die?

This second of two visualizations of how we die focuses on which causes of death are most lethal as you go through your life.

Each circle represents a different cause of death, from neonatal and congenital conditions in infancy, through homicide, suicide and accidents in early adulthood to cancer and brain diseases in old age. As it runs from newborn towards centenarian, these circles expand and contract according to how likely we are to die of each cause at each age.

Note the area of each circle is not proportional to the risk. The likelihood of our dying when young is so much less than when we're old that I've set the area of each circle proportional to the square root of the risk. Otherwise, the circles would be too small in childhood and too large in old age for clarity.

Watch the animation, or drag the knob to see the most significant causes of death at your age.

Make sure you check out the first visualization, too, How We Die PART I, which emphasizes the element of chance.



neonatal conditions

Disorders related to short gestation and low birth weight, not elsewhere classified (P07)

Newborn affected by maternal complications of pregnancy (P01)

Sudden infant death syndrome (R95)

Newborn affected by complications of placenta, cord and membranes (P02)

Bacterial sepsis of newborn (P36)

Respiratory distress of newborn (P22)

Neonatal hemorrhage (P50-P52,P54)

Necrotizing enterocolitis of newborn (P77)

Intrauterine hypoxia and birth asphyxia (P20-P21)

Certain conditions originating in the perinatal period (P00-P96)

congenital conditions

Congenital malformations, deformations and chromosomal abnormalities (Q00-Q99)


Diarrhea and gastroenteritis of infectious origin (A09)


Anemias (D50-D64)

Atherosclerosis (I70)

Aortic aneurysm and dissection (I71)

Diseases of the circulatory system (I00-I99)


Assault (homicide) (*U01-*U02,X85-Y09,Y87.1)


Intentional self-harm (suicide) (*U03,X60-X84,Y87.0)


Accidents (unintentional injuries) (V01-X59,Y85-Y86)


Legal intervention (Y35,Y89.0)


Pregnancy, childbirth and the puerperium (O00-O99)


Influenza and pneumonia (J09-J18)

Septicemia (A40-A41)

Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) disease (B20-B24)

Viral hepatitis (B15-B19)

liver diseases

Chronic liver disease and cirrhosis (K70,K73-K74)


Diabetes mellitus (E10-E14)

kidney diseases

Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome and nephrosis (N00-N07,N17-N19,N25-N27)


Chronic lower respiratory diseases (J40-J47)

Pneumonitis due to solids and liquids (J69)

Atelectasis (P28.0-P28.1)

high blood pressure

Essential hypertension and hypertensive renal disease (I10,I12,I15)

heart diseases

Diseases of heart (I00-I09,I11,I13,I20-I51)


Malignant neoplasms (C00-C97)

In situ neoplasms, benign neoplasms and neoplasms of uncertain or unknown behavior (D00-D48)

brain diseases

Cerebrovascular diseases (I60-I69)

Alzheimer's disease (G30)

Parkinson's disease (G20-G21)


This visualization is based on US data from the National Center for Health Statistics for 2014. However, death rates for age groups over 85 years are omitted from this data (why? is the NCHS too squeamish to admit that death rates are pretty high as you approach 100 years old?)

So I estimated the death rates for all causes for age groups over 85 years by extrapolating from the death rates for all causes for age groups 5 - 9 years through 80 - 84 years (i.e. excluding the higher death rates for infants 0 - 1 years and children 1 - 4 years) with an order-6 polynomial trendline.

As a sanity check, I confirmed that the resulting death rates (10,667.226 for 85 - 89 years, 17,754.8784 for 90 - 94 years and 29,025.4084 for 95 - 99 years were more or less consistent with an overall death rate of 12,634.8 for all age groups over 85 years, based on Canadian data from Statistics Canada for 2009.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – National Center for Health Statistics – National Vital Statistics System – Deaths, percent of total deaths, and death rates for the 15 leading causes of death in 5-year age groups, by race and sex: United States, 2014

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – National Center for Health Statistics – National Vital Statistics System – Infant, neonatal, and postneonatal deaths, percent of total deaths, and mortality rates for the 15 leading causes of infant death by race and sex: United States, 2014

Statistics Canada – Leading Causes of Death in Canada – Ten leading causes of death by selected age groups, by sex, Canada – 85 years and over


First published 12 January 2018

other pages on things made thinkable

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At what age do we do our greatest work?   How Big Is Your God?   Dishonesty Doesn't Pay
from Kootenay Village Ventures Inc.