How we die in Snohomish County and Washington

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 death Deaths Percent of deaths

within age range

Rate per 100,000

in age range

Ages 1-17
Problems that began

in late pregnancy and early life

25 32.5% 14.0
Accident 14 18.2% 7.8
Birth defects 13 16.9% 7.3
Cancer 6 7.8% 3.4
All deaths 77 43.0
Ages 18-24 Deaths % in age Per 100K
Accident 13 35.1% 20.5
Suicide 9 24.3% 14.2
All deaths 37 58.2
Ages 25-44 Deaths % in age Per 100K
Accident 74 36.1% 35.8
Cancer 41 20.0% 19.8
Suicide 22 10.7% 10.7
Heart disease 19 9.3% 9.2
Liver disease 8 4.0% 3.9
Influenza and pneumonia 5 2.4% 2.4
All deaths 205 99.2
Ages 45-64 Deaths % in age Per 100K
Cancer 279 31.8% 155.1
Heart disease 197 22.5% 109.5
Accident 94 10.7% 52.3
Liver disease 40 4.6% 22.2
Lung disease 31 3.5% 17.2
Diabetes 30 3.4% 16.7
Suicide 26 3.0% 14.5
All deaths 876 487.0
Ages 65-74 Deaths % in age Per 100K
Cancer 248 38.4% 684.5
Heart disease 127 19.7% 350.5
Lung disease 41 6.3% 113.2
Diabetes 29 4.5% 80.0
Stroke 22 3.4% 60.7
Accident 21 3.3% 58.0
All deaths 646 1,783.0
Age 75+ Deaths % in age Per 100K
Heart disease 670 26.4% 2,153.5
Cancer 454 17.9% 1,459.3
Alzheimer’s disease 268 10.6% 861.4
Stroke 193 7.6% 620.3
Lung disease 154 6.1% 495.0
Accident 87 3.4% 279.6
Influenza/pneumonia 61 2.4% 196.1
Diabetes 58 2.3% 186.4
All deaths 2,539 8,160.8

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.

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