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Rates of Premature Adult Death Declining Worldwide

But even with overall lower mortality, some nations have lost ground, report shows

FRIDAY, April 30 (HealthDay News) -- Island nations -- including Iceland, Australia and Malta -- are among the countries where people are least likely to die when they're aged 15 to 59, according to a new report.

Several former Soviet states and nations in Africa bring up the rear, with some of the worst mortality rates in the world.

Researchers found that death rates have fallen the most in Australia (for men and women) and South Korea (for women). Men in Iceland and women in Cyprus have the lowest death rates of all.

However, there's bad news: in many countries -- including Paraguay, Cuba, Costa Rica and Greece -- people aged 15 to 59 are more likely to die than they were 40 years ago.

The study findings, released online April 29 in advance of publication in an upcoming issue of The Lancet, were reported by Dr. Christopher Murray, of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington in Seattle, and colleagues.

In the study, the researchers used a formula to determine the likelihood that a person who just turned 15 will die before the age of 60. Over the past 40 years, this number on a worldwide level has fallen by 34 percent in women and 19 percent in men. In the United States, the study authors noted a small rate of decline in mortality among women: less than 1.5 percent per year.

The top five countries with the lowest mortality rates for men, in order, are Iceland, Sweden, Malta, the Netherlands and Switzerland. For women, the lowest mortality rates were seen in Cyprus, South Korea, Japan, Greece and Italy.

The researchers noted that around 24 million adults aged 15 to 60 die each year, which is three times the number seen in children under 5 years of age. "The prevention of premature adult death is just as important for global health policy as is the improvement of child survival," they wrote. "The global health community needs to broaden its focus and to learn from measures applied in countries such as Australia and South Korea to ensure that those who survive to adulthood will also survive until old age."

More information

The World Health Organization has more on adult mortality rates.

-- Randy Dotinga

SOURCE: The Lancet, news release, April 29, 2010

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