Data expert Nathan Yu created a visual chart of the likely causes of death using the data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The death simulation is based on the sex, race and age lifted from the death certificates in the U.S. between 1999 and 2014.
On the website FlowingData.com, Yu explained how it works. First you enter you sex, race and age. Since the data behind the visual chart is lifted from U.S. death certificates, there are only four categories for race, namely Asian, Native, White and Black.
There are only 15 pre-determined causes of death, namely infection, cancer, blood, endocrine, mental, nervous, circulatory, respiratory, digestive, musculoskeletal, genitourinary, perinatal, congenital, external causes and other causes.
As you enter your data, the colored dots that represent your "simulated lives" pop up on the left side of the visual chart. You can press "pause" and "live" and as each year passes, more and more of the dots disappear, which means one of your simulated lives has died.
The bars on the right side of the visual chart track the cumulative causes of deaths. When all your simulated lives have died, you'll see the percentages of how likely you'll die due to each pre-determined cause. The chart also predicts the number of years you're going to live.
If you try to make change your change down to zero, you will notice that by the end of the simulation, there are lesser numbers of most likely death causes, namely infection, circulatory, respiratory, perinatal and congenital. Yu pointed out that it is only in the later years that more and more dots change quicker with the increase of likely death causes.
"The main point, which is what you'd expect, is that mortality rate is much lower in the earlier years of life than in the older years. But, if you do die at a younger age, it's much more likely due to something external rather than a disease," wrote Yu.
In another scenario, if you indicate an age past 80, the likelihood of death from external causes goes down while circulatory causes go up. This scenario is universal across the demographic groups.
Yu said the visual chart prediction among the older demographic surprised him, thinking that cancer would be the leading cause of death based on general news about health. Based on the visual chart, high chances of dying from cancer are true to an extent for certain age brackets but past this stage, the cause of death from circulatory causes goes up. This suggests that the heart can only take so much.
Yu said he wanted to make the CDC data useful to those who aren't essentially data experts. Yu has as PhD in statistics from the University of California, Los Angeles.
Rather morbid, but perhaps this could help people "pause" and make necessary lifestyle changes now before hitting the "live" button again and well, live. Try it here.
Photo: Garry Knight | Flickr