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New End-of-life Studies

By March 17, 2011Commentary

The National Center for Health Statistics released data on deaths in 2009.  A morbid topic, literally, but as always, the Center’s reports have interesting tidbits.  It is mostly good news in the death business.  Life expectancy continues to trend up, now over 80 for women.  The number one cause of death is heart disease and number two is cancer, but 10 of the 15 leading causes of death showed a decrease in rate.  About 2.5 million people died in 2009, but the death rate overall declined and child mortality also declined, as it has continually since the late 1950s.   (NCHS Brief)

A special section of the NCHS annual report on health deals with death as well, including place of death.  From 1989 to 2007, the number of people who died at home increased from one-sixth to one-fourth of all deaths.  These numbers don’t include people living in a nursing home, which would boost the percentage even further.  Correspondingly, the number dying in a hospital has declined from 49% to 36% in the same time period.  The biggest increases were in the very old.  This trend is good news for health costs.   (NCHS Data)

In another study relating to end-of-life care, researchers found that even Canada’s single-payer system is not immune to aggressive treatment of poorly survived cancers.  Published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, the study results show that although the use of aggressive treatment is less than in the United States, in each year from 1993 to 2004 a cancer patient was more likely to endure at least one form of such treatment.  Factors increasing the likelihood included being a man, younger and living in a rural region.   (JCO Study)

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