Top 10 Causes of Death in the U.S.

Reviewed by Arefa Cassoobhoy, MD, MPH on July 01, 2016
From the WebMD Archives

July 1, 2016 -- The death rate in the United States hit an all-time low in 2014, but heart disease and cancer were still the top two causes of death, new data from the National Center for Health Statistics shows. 

The top 10 were:

  1. Heart disease (23.4% of all deaths)
  2. Cancer (22.5%)
  3. Chronic lung diseases (5.6%)
  4. Accidents (unintentional injuries; 5.2%)
  5. Stroke (5.1%)
  6. Alzheimer's disease (3.6%)
  7. Diabetes (2.9%)
  8. Influenza and pneumonia (2.1%)
  9. Kidney disease (1.8%)
  10. Suicide (1.6%)

Together, these 10 causes accounted for 74% of all deaths in the United States. They are unchanged from the top 10 in 2013.

The information comes from death certificates, which are completed by funeral directors, doctors, medical examiners, and coroners.

Rankings differed when analyzed by age, sex, race, and Hispanic origin. Heart disease was the leading cause of death for men and women, and cancer was the second leading cause for both sexes. Accidents were the third leading cause for men and the sixth for women.


When analyzed by age, accidents were the top cause of death for children and adults under 44 years old. Cancer (30.5%) and heart disease (25.5%) were the leading causes for those 45 to 64 and 65 years and older, respectively.

Heart disease was the top cause of death for whites, blacks, American Indians and Alaska natives, while cancer was the leading cause for Hispanics, Asians and Pacific Islanders.

HIV/AIDS went from the sixth to the eighth leading cause of death for men 25 to 34. It was the sixth for black men and seventh for Asian/Pacific Islander men and Hispanic men in the same age group. In contrast, HIV is not among the top 10 leading causes of death for white men of the same age.

Death Rate Down

A second report also published June 30 in the same issue of National Vital Statistics Reports explains that the age-adjusted death rate fell by 1% to a record low of 724.6 deaths per 100,000 U.S. population from 2013 to 2014.


Overall, life expectancy at birth has not changed since 2012, at 78.8 years. But it rose for black men and Hispanic men and women. It fell for white women from 2013 to 2014.

Age-specific death rates decreased for people 1 to 4 years old, 65 to 74, 75 to 84, and 85 and older. Age-specific death rates rose for 25- to 34-year-olds, 35- to 44-year-olds, and 55- to 64-year-olds.

The infant mortality rate fell 2.3% to a historically low value of 5.82 deaths per 1000 live births.

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National Center for Health Statistics, June 30, 2016

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