Recent trends in US mortality in early and middle adulthood: racial/ethnic disparities in inter-cohort patterns.

Journal Article (Journal Article)


A striking increase in the all-cause mortality of US middle-aged non-Hispanic Whites in the past two decades has been documented by previous studies. The inter-cohort patterns in US mortality, as well as their racial/ethnic disparities, are still unclear.


Using official mortality data, we study US annual mortality rates for ages 25-54 from 1990 to 2016 by gender and race/ethnicity. We conduct an age-period-cohort analysis to disentangle the period and cohort forces driving the absolute changes in mortality across cohorts. Nine leading causes of death are also explored to explain the inter-cohort mortality patterns and their racial/ethnic disparities.


We find cohort-specific elevated mortality trends for gender- and race/ethnicity-specific populations. For non-Hispanic Blacks and Hispanics, Baby Boomers have increased mortality trends compared with other cohorts. For non-Hispanic White females, it is late-Gen Xers and early-Gen Yers for whom the mortality trends are higher than other cohorts. For non-Hispanic White males, the elevated mortality pattern is found for Baby Boomers, late-Gen Xers, and early-Gen Yers. The mortality pattern among Baby Boomers is at least partially driven by mortality related to drug poisoning, suicide, external causes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and HIV/AIDS for all race and gender groups affected. The elevated mortality patterns among late-Gen Xers and early-Gen Yers are at least partially driven by mortality related to drug poisonings and alcohol-related diseases for non-Hispanic Whites. Differential patterns of drug poisoning-related mortality play an important role in the racial/ethnic disparities in these mortality patterns.


We find substantial racial/ethnic disparities in inter-cohort mortality patterns. Our findings also point to the unique challenges faced by younger generations.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Zang, E; Zheng, H; Yang, YC; Land, KC

Published Date

  • June 2019

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 48 / 3

Start / End Page

  • 934 - 944

PubMed ID

  • 30508118

Pubmed Central ID

  • PMC6934031

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1464-3685

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0300-5771

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1093/ije/dyy255


  • eng