Californians appear to be getting healthier in many respects, with drops in deaths attributable to cancer and many other major illnesses, as well as homicide and auto accidents, a new statistical report from the state Department of Public Health indicates.
However, the state also is seeing an uptick in deaths from Alzheimer's disease, as well as suicide and chronic liver disease. The report covers three years -- 2009-2011 -- with comparisons to 2006-2008.
For the first time, too, the state report on health-related issues compares California's experiences with the recommendations of the federal government's "Healthy People 2020" benchmarks.
California averaged 234,637 deaths a year from all causes during the 2009-11 period for an "age-adjusted rate" of 654.9 per 100,000 population. But the age-adjusted death rate in the state's 58 counties varied widely, from a low of 516.4 in wealthy Marin County to 989.2 in nearby Lake County, which has a high poverty rate.
The correlation between affluence - or lack thereof - and rates of death was strong in the report, with the wealthier Bay Area and coastal Southern California counties having the lowest rates and poorer rural counties having the highest.
When it came to particular causes of death, however, the correlation sometimes continued and sometimes didn't.
Discounting data from counties with so few cases as to be statistically insignificant, the department said the lowest cancer death rate was found in remote Inyo County, for instance, while the highest was in equally remote Trinity County.
Overall, the state's age-adjusted rate of cancer-caused death, 156.4, was a bit lower than the Healthy People 2020 target of 160.6.
Marin County also had the state's lowest rate of death attributed to diabetes while San Bernardino County had the highest rate, four times that of Marin - a pattern very similar to that of heart disease, with Marin the lowest, Stanislaus County the highest, followed by Kern and San Bernardino counties.
IMAGE CREDIT: The map shows county-by-county age-adjusted death rates per 100,000 population from 2009 to 2011. Dark blue counties have rates greater than the state average, while light colored counties have lower than average rates. Department of Public Health.