Here's a cheery thought: you can now check a map to find out the most distinctive cause of your possible eventual death. That is, depending on which U.S. state you live in.
The map, released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), highlights the "most distinctive" causes of death for every state in the Unites States.
Expected to get a lot of attention, the map is intended as "somewhat of a colorful and provocative way of starting some conversations and highlighting some unusual things that are going on," said study co-author Francis Boscoe from the New York State Cancer Registry.
Although some of the distinctive causes of death highlighted are predictable—black lung disease in coal-producing states and influenza in some northern cold-weather states—some others were surprising, the researchers said.
For instance, death by legal intervention—caused by law enforcement officers but not including legal executions—was the most distinctive cause of death in New Mexico, Nevada and Oregon.
The researchers created their map by calculating the rate of death from each cause on a list of 113 causes of death from the CDC for each state, dividing that by the rate from that particular cause in the U.S. overall.
The result allowed them to identify the states with higher rates of death from particular causes than seen in the rest of the country.
As an example, Boscoe cites a distinctive cause of death in Alaska.
In that state, "the number of deaths due to accidents by boat or plane is 41 per million but in rest of country it's six [deaths] per million, so it's seven times higher," Boscoe explained.
That's not unexpected, he added, as many parts of Alaska are accessible only by planes or boats.
Other causes seen at higher than normal expected ones included HIV-related deaths in Florida and deaths from tuberculosis in Texas, the researchers said.
The "most distinctive" cause doesn't necessarily mean high numbers, the researchers point out, it's just a measure of causes of death that appear in some states and not in others.
"If something is almost nonexistent everywhere in the country, but there's a handful of them in one state, then that could show up" on the newly created map, Boscoe said.
In fact, for 22 U.S. states, the total number of deaths from a "most distinctive" cause of death was less than 100.
Boscoe said the idea for the map came to him as a way of initiating a dialog on causes of death not getting as much attention as the most common causes, such as heart disease or cancer.
"Although chronic-disease-prevention efforts should continue to emphasize the most common [national] conditions, an outlier map such as this one should also be of interest to public health professionals," Boscoe and his study colleagues said in their published report.