Causes of Morbidity & Mortality Across the Life Cycle

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  • 0:30 Younger Than Five
  • 1:42 Five to Fourteen
  • 3:03 Fifteen to Thirty-Four
  • 4:35 Thirty-Five to Fifty-Four
  • 5:27 Fifty-Five and Older
  • 6:21 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Devin Kowalczyk

Devin has taught psychology and has a master's degree in clinical forensic psychology. He is working on his PhD.

In this lesson, we will go age category by age category and examine the common causes of death, as well as why we would expect to see these causes at these particular ages. With this lesson, you should understand the progression that occurs throughout a life cycle.

Mortal Coil

The sad part about living is that you can die at any moment. There is no star mode, god mode or indestructible cheat code to make sure that you survive. So, let's talk about what you need to be concerned with. What are the causes of people dying at different points in their life cycle? Let's break this up by age group, and since I live in the United States, we'll focus on there.

Younger Than Five

It's sad to say that people younger than five don't always make it, but it is a reality. The most likely causes of death before the age of five are:

  • Premature birth
  • Congenital anomalies
  • Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
  • Accidental injury

So, the most likely causes of death are either something that is inborn, or happens around the time of your birth, or something that we're still struggling to explain. Premature birth is something that can be difficult to explain why, and this number increases when you add congenital anomalies, which are birth defects. This includes inborn issues with the heart, brain and general systemic issues. SIDS is something we're still struggling to explain. It's just weird that some children, for no apparent reason, suddenly pass away.

The last type, accidental injury, is something that could be improved by watching them. But really, kids under five have so much energy and so little understanding of how the world works that even with absolute, 100% monitoring they would still probably get hurt. It's like those table edges are heat-seeking missiles.

Five to Fourteen

I've combined two groups here because the two leading causes of death are actually the same. It's the third leading cause that changes when someone hits ten. The top two causes of death are:

  • Unintentional injury
  • Cancer, or the official name is malignant neoplasm

Again, we see unintentional injury as one of the leading causes of death. The relatively inexperienced youth does stupid things, like jumping off of roofs, diving into shallow ends of pools and playing with knives. Unfortunately, cancerous growths do occur, and because of the relatively small size of their bodies and the aggressiveness of some children's cancers, the outlooks aren't always so great.

The third cause of death is different if you are younger or older than ten. Younger than ten, it is congenital anomalies again. You've survived the first couple of years of life, but that bad organ or the malformed something or other finally gives way. If you are between ten and fourteen, the third leading cause of death is suicide. This is a time for turbulence and changes, and people can talk until they're blue in the face, but you can't ever really explain the internal changes that occur. I myself went through an extremely depressive time in my early teens due to these changes. This is something we should all work on to make better.

Fifteen to Thirty-Four

If the early teens were a time of internal turbulence, the late teens, 20s and early 30s are a time of external turbulence. Here we have the age of attention-seeking, stupid stunts to get attention and a little too much pride. The three leading causes of death in this age bracket are:

  • Unintentional injury
  • Suicide
  • Homicide

The most likely cause of death is unintentional injury. Here now we have kids driving, and we have them traveling, and we have them doing stupid stunts to get attention. Guys! Come on! She isn't going to like you more if you crash your car and break your neck.

Suicide and homicide interchange every couple of years, with homicide being a bit more common in the late teens and suicide being a bit more common in the late twenties and early thirties. This is likely due to a similar turbulence experienced by younger teens. By their late teens, many people feel they have a grasp on life. They likely finish high school, and some go on to work while others go on to college. They have a good idea of what's going to happen.

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