Journal Article

Cardiovascular mortality gap between the United States and other high life expectancy countries in 2000–2016

Journals of Gerontology, Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, 77:Suppl. 2, S148–S157 (2022)
Open Access


Reductions in U.S. cardiovascular disease (CVD) mortality have stagnated. While other high life expectancy countries (HLCs) have also recently experienced a stall, the stagnation in CVD mortality in the United States appeared earlier and has been more pronounced. The reasons for the stall are unknown. We analyze cross-national variations in mortality trends to quantify the U.S. exceptionality and provide insight into its underlying causes.
Data are from the World Health Organization (2000–2016). We quantified differences in levels and trends of CVD mortality between the United States and 17 other HLCs. We decomposed differences to identify the individual contributions of major CVD subclassifications (ischemic heart disease [IHD], stroke, other heart diseases). To identify potential behavioral explanations, we compared trends in CVD mortality with trends in other causes of death related to obesity, smoking, alcohol, and drugs.
Our study has four central findings: (a) U.S. CVD mortality is consistently higher than the average of other HLCs; (b) the U.S.–HLC gap declined until around 2008 and increased thereafter; (c) the shift from convergence to divergence was mainly driven by slowing IHD and stroke mortality reductions and increasing mortality from other CVD causes; (d) among the potential risk factors, only obesity- and alcohol-related mortality showed age-specific temporal changes that are similar to those observed for cardiovascular mortality.
The exceptional changes in U.S. CVD mortality are driven by a distinct pattern of slowing reductions in IHD and stroke mortality and deteriorating mortality from other CVD causes. Obesity and alcohol abuse appear to be interrelated factors.

Keywords: Europe, USA, cardiovascular diseases, mortality, mortality trends
The Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) in Rostock is one of the leading demographic research centers in the world. It's part of the Max Planck Society, the internationally renowned German research society.