Leading causes of death, 1900-1998
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Leading causes of death, 1900-1998

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    • Description:
      The tables on the following pages represent the leading causes of death in the death registration area for the period 1900-1932 and the United States for the period 1933-1998. Since the tables were produced at different times and for different publications, the formatting and even the number of leading causes shown differ from one year to the next.

      There are specific rules for ranking leading causes of death. These rules are shown in the Technical notes of the final report as well as in the Technical Appendix of Vital Statistics of the United States. The rules for ranking leading causes of death were developed by NCHS and the states around 1950, so that everyone would be identifying the leading causes of death in the same way.

      Initially, the procedure for ranking stipulated that the “List of 64 Selected Causes of Death” be used and the following rules applied:

      • Omit the group titles “Major cardiovascular-renal diseases” and “Diseases of the cardiovascular system” and the single titles “Symptoms, senility and ill-defined conditions” and “All other infective and parasitic diseases”

      • Rank the remaining group titles and single titles, omitting any title appearing under a group title included in the ranking

      • Apply this procedure to deaths by age, race, and sex, with the exception of deaths under 1 year of age

      • In published tables of rank order, indicate the list of causes of death that have been ranked, and the procedure used

      Effective with 1969 data, category titles beginning with “other” or “all other” were dropped from the ranking. The list of causes providing the basis for ranking has changed slightly over the years. A separate cause-of-death ranking for infants was formalized in 1979.

      Cause-of-death titles change from time-to-time. This reflects that the classification used to show cause of death and the specific list used for ranking is revised periodically. The classification is revised to incorporate and capture changes in medical knowledge. The revisions, in some instances, do create breaks in the comparability of a cause of death between two years. Other screens provide additional detail about the revisions of the classification and comparability.

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