In 2009, the age-adjusted risk of dying was about 50% higher for a resident of West Virginia than it was for a resident of Hawaii.

The gap between the age-adjusted mortality rate for residents of Hawaii and residents of West Virginia, fell to 53% that year, from 57% in 2007, but, in 2009, West Virginia still recorded an age-adjusted death rate of 949.6 deaths per 100,000 residents, compared with an age-adjusted death rate of just 619.8 deaths per 100,000 residents for Hawaii.

Arialdi Minino, a researcher at the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), has reported the 2009 figures in a 2009 death report released by the center’s parent agency, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Minino and colleagues also prepared a similar report in 2007.

The jurisdictions with the highest age-adjusted 2009 death rates are mostly in or near the Southeast. They include Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee, West Virginia and the District of Columbia.

Mortality is high in the Southeast partly because many residents of the South are black, and there is still a gap between the life expectancy of white U.S. residents and black U.S. residents. The size of the life expectancy gap fell 22% between 2000 and 2009, but in 2009 white U.S. residents could still expect 4.3 years longer than black residents.

For white and black residents who are already 65 years old, the life expectancy gap was 1.3 years.

But NCHS researchers reported in a look at age-adjusted death rates for the period from 2005 to 2007 that age-adjusted death rates for white residents of high-death-rate states also tend to be high.

In Hawaii, for example, the age-adjusted death rate per 100,000 white residents was just 665.9; the age-adjusted death rates for 100,000 white residents in the Southeast were 952.0 in West Virginia and 904.9 in Louisiana.

In some states, the age-adjusted death rate for black residents is much lower than the age-adjusted death rate for white residents. Those states are Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Maine, Montana, New Hampshire, New Mexico and Wyoming.

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