Chronic Conditions Remain Costly and Preventable Leading Causes of Death

According to releases from the National Center for Health Statistics, the leading causes of death in 2014 remained the same as in 2013. However, age-adjusted death rates for five leading causes declined significantly; heart disease, cancer, chronic lower respiratory diseases, diabetes, and influenza and pneumonia. Although not in the top ten leading causes, hypertension also showed a significant decrease. Death rates increased significantly for unintentional injuries, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, suicide, and chronic liver disease and cirrhosis between 2013 and 2014.

  • Generally, for younger age groups, external causes accounted for more deaths than other causes, whereas for older age groups, chronic diseases were far more prevalent than other causes.
  • For populations aged 65 and over, heart disease was the leading cause of death, followed by cancer. 
  • Heart disease was also the leading cause of death for the population aged 85 and over.
  • Alzheimer’s disease was one of the major causes of death at the oldest ages, ranking third for those aged 85 and over.
  • Medicare beneficiaries with six or more chronic conditions account for 15% of beneficiaries but 50% of total Medicare spending (see chart below).


Clearly the data shows the impact of our aging population and chronic care needs. Fazzi uses the IHI Triple Aim framework when assisting agencies with preparing for the future now. To learn more about Triple Aim, click here.

To download a PDF of the top ten home health and hospice diagnoses from analysis of Fazzi claims data, click here.  To download a PDF of leading causes of death for three age groups; 65-74 years, 75-84 years, and 85 years and over, click here.  For chronic condition prevalence at state and county levels, click here.

Leading causes of death. For information on data and methods, including definitions of and procedures for ranking, see sources: Heron M. Deaths: Leading causes for 2014. National vital statistics reports; vol 65 no. 5. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2016. Kochanek KD, Murphy SL, Xu JQ, Tejada-Vera B. Deaths: Final data for 2014. National vital statistics reports; vol 65 no 4. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2016. Medicare spending on chronic conditions. See Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, chronic conditions charts: 2014.