Mortality rates in U.S. have dropped 60 percent since 1935

Mortality rates in the U.S. have dropped 60 percent since 1935, according to a National Center for Health Statistics data brief.

The analysis looked at data from the National Vital Statistics System for years 1935–2010.  Key findings include:


  • Heart disease, cancer, and stroke were among the five leading causes of death every year between 1935 and 2010.
  • The male and female gap in death rates peaked in 1975–1981 and has narrowed since then.
  • There was a 29 percent decline in age-adjusted mortality between 1935 to 1954, which was probably influenced by the introduction of various drugs such as antibiotics.
  • Between 1955 to 1968, age-adjusted death rates decreased by only 2 percent, likely influenced by increases in diseases linked to tobacco use such as cancer and chronic lower respiratory diseases.
  • Although chronic respiratory diseases continued to increase between 1969 – 1998, significant progress in diagnosing, treating, and preventing cardiovascular disease likely influenced the 41% decline in age-adjusted mortality between 1969 and 2010.


(Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,, March 2012; AHA News Now,, March 7, 2012)