Homicide no longer a leading cause of death in the US

Murder is no longer one of the top 15 causes of death in the United States for the first time in 45 years. Criminologists say homicide declines may simply be due to good police work.
Credit: Bruno Vincent

Homicide is no longer one of the leading causes of deaths in the United States, according to a new study by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention

Between 1990 and 2010 (the last full year of crime data reported to the FBI), homicides in New York dropped 76 percent. They were also down 70 percent in Los Angeles and 49 percent in Chicago during the same time period, USA Today reported

Murder rates have dropped so significantly that homicide has been replaced at number 15 by pneumonitis, a respiratory illness that largely affects people 75 or older, the Associated Press reported

This is the first time since 1965 that homicide failed to rank as one of the most common causes of death in the US. Criminologists have not been able to explain the recent declines, and some have simply pointed to good police work, the AP reported.

Heart disease and cancer remain the top causes of death, accounting for almost half of the country's more than 2.4 million deaths in 2010, according to the study. However, the death rates from both have decreased, as did the rates for the five other leading causes of death: Influenza and pneumonia-related fatalities dropped by a combined 8.5 percent, while deaths from blood infections dropped 3.6 percent. Fatal respiratory diseases, strokes and accidents also declined, Bloomberg Businessweek reported

"Given where we are in the life cycle, with the Baby Boom generation aging and more vulnerable to disease, the population generally is at less risk of homicide," Northeastern University criminologist James Alan Fox, who studies homicide, told USA Today.

The United States saw an increased number of deaths due to Alzheimer's disease, which is the sixth-leading killer. Kidney disease (number 8), chronic liver disease and cirrhosis (number 12), Parkinson's disease (number 14) and pneumonitis all saw increases as well. 

The study bore good news for children born in the US in 2010: their life expectancy was about 78 years and 8 months, up over a month from life expectancy for 2009.

More from GlobalPost: Canada's homicide rate lowest in 45 years 

Related Stories