“Maps of the most distinctive or characteristic value of some variable at the state or country level became popular on social media,” the researchers wrote. One of those viral maps looked at mortality stats by state, but only took into account the top 10 causes of death.
Francis Boscoe and Eva Pradhan went a lot deeper for the CDC, considering 113 causes of death recognized by the National Center for Health Statistics during the decade 2001-2010.
Lung issues disproportionately hit mining states like West Virginia and Kentucky, while you’ll find “accidental discharge of firearms” in Alabama and Tennessee.
As the Washington Post cautions, “The map does not show the main cause of death by state, which is basically heart disease or cancer. What it shows is the cause of death in each state that stands out most relative to its national average.”
The authors don’t expect the medical community to drop everything to focus on these causes.
“Although chronic disease prevention efforts should continue to emphasize the most common conditions,” the authors wrote, “an outlier map such as this one should also be of interest to public health professionals, particularly insofar as it highlights nonstandard cause-of-death certification practices within and between states.”
And for those of us who just enjoy a good map, here’s another.