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313 N. Figueroa Street, Room 806  |  Los Angeles, CA 90012  |  (213) 240-8144  |  media@ph.lacounty.gov

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For Immediate Release:

May 24, 2022

LA County Sees Sharp Increases in Mortality and Shifts in Leading Causes of Death in First Year of Pandemic

LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (Public Health) has released a new report, Mortality in Los Angeles County, 2020: Provisional Report. The report compares the provisional* number of deaths and associated death rates and leading causes of death among LA County residents in 2020 with what was reported in 2019. Overall, there were 81,083 deaths reported in 2020, 16,566 more than were reported in 2019, a 26% increase. COVID-19 was the second leading cause of death in 2020, accounting for 11,101 deaths, or 67% of the reported increase from 2019 to 2020.

Coronary heart disease remained the leading cause of death in 2020, accounting for 12,207 deaths compared to 11,075 in 2019, a 10% increase. Alzheimer’s disease (4,978 deaths), stroke (4,026 deaths), and diabetes (3,527 deaths) were the 3rd, 4th, and 5th leading causes of death, respectively, in 2020. For each of these causes, the number of deaths increased in 2020 relative to 2019 (12% increase in Alzheimer’s disease deaths, 6% increase in stroke deaths, and 18% increase in diabetes deaths). The largest increase in deaths was observed for unintentional drug overdose deaths, from 1,208 deaths in 2019 to 1,954 deaths in 2020, a 62% increase. Drug overdose was also the leading cause of death among youth ages 15-24 and adults ages 25 to 44 in both 2019 and 2020.

Large disparities in death rates** were seen across racial and ethnic groups, with the highest rate among Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders (1,324 deaths per 100,000 population), followed by American Indians and Alaska Natives (1,138 per 100,000), Blacks (1,053 per 100,000), Latinx (725 per 100,000), Whites (698 per 100,000), and Asians (509 per 100,000). The largest increase in death rates from 2019 to 2020 was observed among American Indians and Alaska Natives (63% increase), followed by Latinx (42%), Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders (39%), Blacks (26%), Asians (26%), and Whites (10%).

Large disparities were also seen across geographic regions of the county. The South and Antelope Valley Service Planning Areas (SPAs) had the highest death rates in 2020 (953 and 945 per 100,000, respectively), and the West SPA had the lowest death rate (506 per 100,000). The South and Metro SPAs had the largest increases in death rates from 2019 to 2020 (32% and 30%, respectively), and the West SPA had the smallest increase (7%).

“The large increase in deaths over the space of only one year is unprecedented in modern times, and to a large degree reflects the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Barbara Ferrer, PhD, MPH, MEd, Director of Public Health. “The disparities we see are longstanding but have been worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic and are rooted in the inequitable social, economic, and environmental conditions, structural racism, and differential access to health-promoting resources experienced by different groups. While we continue our essential efforts to reduce risks from COVID-19, it is imperative that we recognize that these efforts are inextricably linked with other vital endeavors needed to address the underlying inequities that drive the disparate death rates seen across the county.”

* The 2020 mortality statistics are based on provisional data reported on death certificates which do not include Los Angeles County residents who died out of state. However, we expect the number of missing deaths to be fewer than 600, and therefore not to affect the interpretations of this report. Data for 2019 are based on final 2019 death data, which include out of state deaths.

** All death rates in the report, with the exception of age-specific rates, are age-adjusted to account for the different age distributions that exist across different populations

For more information and to download a copy of the report, please visit http://www.publichealth.lacounty.gov/epi

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