How we die in Snohomish County and Washington

  • Wed Oct 26th, 2011 12:57pm
  • News

Reported by Rikki King

Death is different from far away. Up close, it’s overwhelming, our ultimate primal fear. Death ruptures into big, black clouds of grief. Yet within, there is renewal — and there are life lessons. However personal, how we die says something about who we are.

About 4,500 people die in Snohomish County each year. Most deaths are reported to the Snohomish County Medical Examiner’s Office. Of those, only a fraction require some sort of investigation.

Deaths are categorized by cause and manner. Cause is the medical reason someone dies, such as blunt-force injury or asphyxia. In Washington, the manner of death can be classified in one of six ways: natural, accident, suicide, homicide, undetermined and pending.

The great majority of people here die from natural causes or accidents. Accidental deaths are most often caused by falls and fractures, poisonings — which include drug and alcohol overdoses — and car wrecks. Few people die from violence inflicted by others.

Our age has a lot to do with how we die.

Children and teenagers are most vulnerable to birth defects and accidents. Young adults must survive accidents — and themselves. Suicide is a leading cause of death until people reach their mid-60s. Cancer is another heavy contender.

Deaths by traffic accidents happen regardless of age. The same is true of deaths linked to drug and alcohol. Until age 40, more men die from overdoses than women, then the pattern reverses.

Homicides are most common among the young, particularly people in their 20s. Most victims are male. Half died from gunshot wounds. Most of the rest were beaten or stabbed.

The numbers may tell a story, but they don’t sum up a life.

Top 10 causes of death in Snohomish County in 2008

1. Cancer

2. Heart disease

3. Accident

4. Alzheimer’s disease

5. Stroke

6. Lung disease

7. Diabetes

8. Infectious and parasitic disease

9. Influenza and pneumonia

10. Liver disease

Source: Snohomish Health District

Death by age in Snohomish County

These are only the most prevalent causes of death in each range in 2008.

Cause of deathDeathsPercent of deaths

within age range

Rate per 100,000

in age range

Ages 1-17
Problems that began

in late pregnancy and early life

Birth defects1316.9%7.3
All deaths7743.0
Ages 18-24Deaths% in agePer 100K
All deaths3758.2
Ages 25-44Deaths% in agePer 100K
Heart disease199.3%9.2
Liver disease84.0%3.9
Influenza and pneumonia52.4%2.4
All deaths20599.2
Ages 45-64Deaths% in agePer 100K
Heart disease19722.5%109.5
Liver disease404.6%22.2
Lung disease313.5%17.2
All deaths876487.0
Ages 65-74Deaths% in agePer 100K
Heart disease12719.7%350.5
Lung disease416.3%113.2
All deaths6461,783.0
Age 75+Deaths% in agePer 100K
Heart disease67026.4%2,153.5
Alzheimer’s disease26810.6%861.4
Lung disease1546.1%495.0
All deaths2,5398,160.8
Source: Snohomish Health District

Statewide mortality data

The state generally does not calculate rates per 100,000 people for categories with very few deaths, so some counties aren’t represented in some categories of death in the charts below. Source: Washington State Department of Health, Center for Health Statistics.

Life expectancy and death rates by Washington county, 2009

Click on the box below to activate the data visualization, then mouse over the bars to see their data. You can choose different data categories, as well.

Mortality in Washington, 2009

Click on the box below to activate the data visualization, then mouse over the counties to see their data. You can choose different data categories, as well.