Recent research published in The BMJ (originally called the British Medical Journal), analyzed excess death metrics in the United States from 1999 to 2019. The report explains that “excess deaths” represents the difference (over a specific period of time) between the number of deaths that did occur within a specified group (in this case Black men and women) to the number of deaths that would have occurred had the mortality rate been the same as a comparison group (in this case, white men and women). The study found that age-adjusted excess death rates were higher than other causes of death each year during the examined timeframe for Black men and women under 65. Since 2014, the excess death rate has been increasing between Black and white men. In 2019, the number of excess deaths among Black men under 65 was 25,850 and among Black women, 14,444.
The authors highlight that one of the most influential social determinants of health is systemic racism, noting that, “Black people in the United States are more likely to die young – not because there is some intrinsic biological risk, but because of racism.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also recognizes that racism is a serious threat to public health. In addition to the COVID-19 pandemic’s disproportionate impact on racial and ethnic minority populations, data show that racial and ethnic minority groups also experience higher rates of illness and death across a spectrum of health conditions. Furthermore, life expectancy in the nation for Black individuals is four years less than it is for white individuals.
While the leading cause of death for Black men in all age categories in the United States in 2017 was heart disease, the heavy impact of social determinants of health becomes apparent when analyzing causes of death by age category. Homicide was the leading cause of death for Black males in the age groups of 1-19 (35%) and 20-44 (27.6%). For White males in both age categories, unintentional injuries was the leading cause of death.
January 27, 2022 – C. St. John
 CDC. Racism and Health. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Nov. 24, 2021). Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/healthequity/racism-disparities/index.html
 CDC. Leading Causes of Death-Non-Hispanic Black Males – United States, 2017. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Nov. 20, 2019). Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/healthequity/lcod/men/2017/nonhispanic-black/index.htm
 CDC. Leading Causes of Death-non-Hispanic White Males – United States, 2017. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Nov. 20, 2019). Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/healthequity/lcod/men/2017/nonhispanic-white/index.htm