In this report, the 2021 mortality data in the U.S. is examined according to demographic and medical factors, including age, sex, race, and cause of death. The report also compares this data with that of 2020 and highlights life expectancy estimates, death rates, and leading causes of death for both the general and infant populations.
Sr. Content Editor
Last Updated: 15.02.2023
Keep on reading as we explore the mortality statistics in the U.S. in this section, which provide a comprehensive view of the trends and patterns in deaths over time.
In 2020, the number of people who died in the United States was around 3.38 million.
The United States reported approximately 3.46 million deaths in 2021, indicating a rise from 2.15 million deaths in 1990 and 2.85 million deaths in 2019.
The COVID-19 pandemic can be attributed to this abrupt surge.
The life expectancy at birth for the entire U.S. population in 2021 was 76.4 years, which represents a 0.6 year decline from 77.0 years in 2020.
The life expectancy for males decreased from 74.2 years in 2020 to 73.5 years in 2021, representing a decline of 0.7 years.
Females experienced a decrease of 0.6 years in life expectancy, with the figure dropping from 79.9 in 2020 to 79.3 in 2021.
In 2021, the gap in life expectancy between males and females was 5.8 years.
This marks a 0.1 year increase from 2020.
The life expectancy for the overall population at the age of 65 was 18.4 years in 2021.
This indicates a 0.1 year drop from 2020.
The death rate for the entire population, adjusted for age, rose by 5.3% from 835.4 deaths per 100,000 U.S. standard population in 2020 to 879.7 in 2021.
Each age group 1 year and older experienced a rise in death rates from 2020 to 2021.
Heart disease was the top leading cause of death in 2021, followed by cancer and COVID-19, and 9 of the 10 primary causes of death in 2020 remained unchanged in 2021.
The rate of infant mortality (IMR) remained relatively stable from 2020 to 2021, with a rate of 543.6 infant deaths per 100,000 live births recorded in both years.
The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted mortality rates in the U.S., and in this section, we will explore these statistics to gain a better understanding of its effects.
Although heart disease and cancer are the most prevalent causes of death in the United States, COVID-19 was responsible for approximately 10.4 percent of all deaths in that year, making it the third leading cause of death.
The year 2020 saw a significant surge in the total number of deaths compared to prior years due to the substantial fatalities caused by COVID-19.
In the United States in 2020, the likelihood of an individual succumbing to heart disease or cancer was 1 in 6 and 1 in 7, respectively. In comparison, the probability of dying from COVID-19 was 1 in 12.
In 2021, COVID-19 was mentioned as either the primary or contributing cause of 460,513 deaths.
This equates to a rate of 111.4 deaths per 100,000 population.
This marks a rise from 384,536 deaths (93.2) recorded in 2020.
In 2021, COVID-19 death rates were least prevalent among individuals aged 1-4 (0.4) and 5-14 years (0.4).
Deaths were most pronounced among those aged 85 years and above (1,395.7).
With the exception of individuals aged 85 years and above, the COVID-19 death rates for all other age groups experienced an increase from 2020 to 2021.
Similar to the overall mortality, in 2021, the COVID-19-associated death rate that was adjusted for age was higher among males (140.0) than females (87.7).
In 2021, COVID-19 was listed as the primary cause for 13.3% of all deaths.
This reflects an increase from 10.4% (350,831 deaths) in 2020.
The term "deaths of despair" refers to deaths caused by suicide, drug overdose, and alcohol-related illnesses. In this section, we will explore the mortality statistics for these causes of death in the United States.
A significant proportion of preventable deaths in the United States can be attributed to drug overdose, suicide, and alcohol abuse.
Social and economic factors are often associated with the diseases of despair, also referred to as deaths of despair.
Over the past ten years, suicide rates have risen for both genders, but men still have a rate that is approximately 3.7 times higher than women.
Over the last twenty years, drug overdose deaths in the United States have continued to rise as a result of the ongoing opioid epidemic.
In 2020, opioid involvement was a factor in a record number of drug overdose deaths in the United States.
More than 56,500 deaths in 2020 were attributed to fentanyl, an extremely potent synthetic opioid.
In the US, suicide ranks as the 12th leading cause of death.
In 2020, the number of Americans who died by suicide was 45,979.
According to estimates, there were approximately 1.20 million suicide attempts in the United States in 2020.
The suicide rate in 2020, adjusted for age, was 13.48 deaths per 100,000 individuals.
Middle-aged white men have the highest rate of suicide.
In 2020, the suicide rate for men was 3.88 times higher than the rate for women.
Every day, an average of 130 suicides occur.
In 2020, 69.68% of suicide deaths were among white males.
52.83% of all suicide deaths in 2020 were attributed to firearms.
Among adults in the United States, the suicide rates in 2020 were higher in the age group of 25 to 34 years.
Every year, millions of Americans are affected by cancer, either through diagnosis or the loss of a loved one. This section will provide an in-depth analysis of the mortality statistics for different types of cancer.
In 2019, cancer was responsible for more than 599,000 deaths in the United States.
The leading cause of cancer-related deaths for both men and women in the United States is lung and bronchus cancer.
Among women, breast cancer is the second most lethal form of cancer.
Prostate cancer is the second most common cause of cancer death among men.
There were an estimated 130,180 fatalities expected in 2022.
Kentucky, West Virginia, and Mississippi are the states that have the highest rates of cancer-related deaths.
There was a 1.7% increase in age-adjusted death rates for cancer from 2020 to 2021, rising from 144.1 to 146.6.
In 2019, the largest number of cancer deaths recorded during that period was 599,589.
The minimum number of cancer-related deaths was 549,829, which occurred in 1999.
In 2021, cancer was responsible for 604,553 deaths.
At present, heart disease is the primary cause of mortality in the United States.
COVID-19 ranked as the third highest cause of death in the United States in 2021, contributing to 12% of all deaths that year.
The primary causes of mortality around the world resemble those in the United States.
In 2021, the top 10 causes of infant mortality were congenital malformations, low birth weight, sudden infant death syndrome, unintentional injuries, maternal complications, cord and placental complications, bacterial sepsis of newborn, respiratory distress of newborn, diseases of the circulatory system, and intrauterine hypoxia and birth asphyxia.
These factors contributed to 66.2% of all infant fatalities in the United States.
In 2021, intrauterine hypoxia and birth asphyxia rose to the 10th position as the primary cause of infant mortality, while neonatal hemorrhage, which was previously on the list, fell off.
There was a 7.5% reduction in the Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) due to low birth weight, which declined from 86.9 in 2020 to 80.4 in 2021.
The mortality rates for the remaining primary causes of infant mortality did not undergo significant changes.
The primary causes of mortality in 2021 remained mostly unchanged from 2020, with 9 out of the top 10 leading causes of death remaining the same. Heart disease retained its position as the leading cause of death, followed by cancer and COVID-19.
Chronic liver disease and cirrhosis ascended to the 9th position as the primary cause of death in 2021, whereas influenza and pneumonia were eliminated from the top 10 causes of death list.
The remaining principal causes of mortality in 2021, namely unintentional injuries, stroke, chronic lower respiratory diseases, Alzheimer's disease, diabetes, and kidney disease, maintained their rankings from 2020.
Out of the top 10 leading causes of death, 8 experienced a rise in age-adjusted death rates between 2020 and 2021, while the other 2 showed a decrease.
The rate of age-adjusted death increased by 3.3% for heart disease (from 168.2 in 2020 to 173.8 in 2021), 1.7% for cancer (from 144.1 to 146.6), and 22.5% for COVID-19 (from 85.0 to 104.1) between 2020 and 2021.
The age-adjusted death rate increased by 12.3% for unintentional injuries (from 57.6 to 64.7), 5.9% for stroke (from 38.8 to 41.1), 2.4% for diabetes (from 24.8 to 25.4), 9.0% for chronic liver disease and cirrhosis (from 13.3 to 14.5), and 7.1% for kidney disease (from 12.7 to 13.6) between the years 2020 and 2021.
The rate of age-adjusted death decreased by 4.7% for chronic lower respiratory diseases, going from 36.4 in 2020 to 34.7 in 2021.
There was a 4.3% decrease in the age-adjusted death rate for Alzheimer's disease, going from 32.4 in 2020 to 31.0 in 2021.
The cost of a typical funeral, including the viewing, burial, service fees, transportation, casket, embalming, and other preparations, ranges from $7,000 to $12,000. Meanwhile, the average cost of a funeral that involves cremation is typically lower, ranging from $6,000 to $7,000. It's important to note, however, that these prices don't cover additional expenses such as cemetery plots, monuments, markers, or floral arrangements. For further information, continue reading.
Based on the 2021 National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA) Member General Price List Study, the typical cost of a funeral has risen by a mere 6.6% in the last five years to reach $7,848.
Meanwhile, the median cost of a funeral that involves cremation has increased by 11.3% over the same period, amounting to $6,970.
The study reported median costs for a rental casket at $995, a metal burial casket at $2,500, a wood burial casket at $3,000, a green burial casket at $1,500, a cremation casket at $1,310, an alternative cremation container at $150, a vault at $1,572, and an urn at $295.
The cost of a cremation can vary widely, typically ranging from $1,000 to $8,000 depending on the location and services selected. Due to the numerous fees associated with the funeral home, the price of a cremation can approach that of a traditional funeral.
There were over 18,800 funeral homes in the United States, a decrease from 19,902 in 2010, according to the National Directory of Morticians Redbook.
The funeral industry is reported to generate $16.323 billion in revenue according to the latest available data from the 2012 U.S. Census Bureau Economic Census.
Funeral homes and services contributing $13.004 billion and cemeteries and crematories contributing $3.319 billion.
The census also indicates that the funeral industry employs 141,002 people, with 108,385 individuals in funeral homes and services, and 32,617 employed in cemeteries and crematories.
Burial costs can add up to $9,000 or more, depending on the selection of additional items like caskets, headstones, and grave liners.
The cost of embalming typically ranges from $500 to $700 and seldom exceeds $1,000.
Wreaths are commonly placed around the casket during a funeral and generally have a price range of $100 to $200 each. Casket wreaths, which are draped over the casket, come in various sizes and price points, with a medium-sized arrangement likely costing between $500 and $700, based on factors such as the florist, type of flowers used, and size of the display.
Burial plots typically cost between $350 and $5,000, but urban regions such as certain parts of Los Angeles and Chicago may incur higher expenses. In addition to the cost of the grave site, there is usually a charge for opening and closing the grave, which can range from approximately $1,000 in a public cemetery to as much as $3,000 in a private one.
Vertical headstones, which are placed on top of the grave, typically range in cost from $2,000 to $5,000 based on the design. Meanwhile, flat grave markers, which lie on the ground, usually cost around $1,000.
The casket is typically the most costly element when considering the average funeral expenses, with a wide range of styles, materials, designs, and prices available. The average casket price ranges between $2,000 to $5,000, often made of either metal or an economical type of wood. However, some caskets may exceed $10,000 in price or even higher. The federal government offers only a lump-sum payment of approximately $255 for those who are eligible, which falls short of covering the total cost.
The final data for 2021 and 2020 were analyzed to provide information on mortality patterns among US residents, including variables such as sex, age, race and Hispanic origin, and cause of death. The analysis included life expectancy estimates, age-adjusted death rates, age-specific death rates, the 10 leading causes of death, infant mortality rates, and the 10 leading causes of infant death.
In the United States, the primary causes of death can vary slightly based on race and ethnicity.
For instance, while heart disease and cancer are the primary causes of death for all races and ethnicities, assault or homicide is responsible for around 3% of deaths among the black population, but is not among the leading causes of death for other races and ethnicities.
Additionally, there are also differences in the leading causes of death based on gender. Intentional self-harm accounts for approximately 2.5% of all deaths among males, but is not one of the primary causes of death among females.
Conversely, septicemia and influenza and pneumonia are responsible for more deaths among women than men.
Male life expectancy dropped by 0.7 year from 74.2 in 2020 to 73.5 in 2021.
Female life expectancy dropped by 0.6 year from 79.9 in 2020 to 79.3 in 2021.
In 2021, females had a life expectancy that was 5.8 years longer than males, representing a 0.1 year increase from the previous year.
The life expectancy at age 65 for the overall population was 18.4 years in 2021, indicating a decline of 0.1 year from 2020.
The life expectancy for women at age 65 decreased by 0.1 year, from 19.8 in 2020 to 19.7 in 2021.
The life expectancy for men at age 65 remained the same at 17.0 years in 2021 as it was in 2020.
In 2021, the gap in life expectancy at age 65 between males and females decreased by 0.1 year, from 2.8 years in 2020 to 2.7 years.
The age-adjusted death rates for Hispanic females increased by 2.3%, from 586.6 to 599.8 in 2021 after correcting for misclassification of race and ethnicity.
For non-Hispanic American Indian or Alaska Native (AIAN) males, the death rates increased by 6.1%, from 1,618.9 to 1,717.5.
The death rates for non-Hispanic AIAN females increased by 7.3%, from 1,152.9 to 1,236.6, while non-Hispanic Black females experienced a 1.3% increase from 910.0 to 921.9.
In 2021, the age-adjusted death rates for Hispanic males decreased by 2.1%, from 934.8 to 915.6, while for non-Hispanic Black males, the rates decreased by 1.8%, from 1,405.6 to 1,380.2.
The age-adjusted rates for non-Hispanic Asian males and females in 2021 did not show a significant difference from the rates in 2020.