Of brave men & colonial bastardry
The love that love made for me

Premature death is the worst enemy

| Medscape
| Additional notes by Keith Jackson

LOS GATOS, CALIFORNIA - Death is not the enemy. Human death is normal; we all die. The real enemies are premature death, disability, pain, human suffering, and the prolongation of dying. All the rest is mostly noise.

At its core, the likelihood of an American experiencing premature death is all about availability and ease of access to beneficial and harmful products and services, determined by geography, driven by economics; diverse and often inequitable but with logical, even predictable, outcomes.

Humans are easily led in healthy and unhealthy directions. The rest is all about availability.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines premature death as death at ages younger than 70 years. The average life expectancy at birth is 74.5 years for American men and 80.2 years for American women. The median age at death for all Americans is 73.7 years.

In Papua New Guinea the average life expectancy at birth for men is 63 years and for women, 68 years. The median age at death for Americans is 73.7 years and for Papua New Guineans 66 years.

Listed here are the common diseases, afflictions or agents that kill Americans prematurely (from youngest to oldest) the median age of premature death in each case:

Gunshot wounds (median age at death, 28 years)
Fentanyl (35 years)
Vehicle crashes (40 years)
Drug overdoses (46 years)
Alcoholism (57 years)
Smoking (66)
Cirrhosis (67)
Diabetes (67)
Chronic kidney disease (68)
Lung cancer (71)
Other cancers (73)
Stroke (73)
Heart attack (73)

In Papua New Guinea, nearly 50% of deaths are attributed to non-communicable diseases (e.g., heart disease, cancer, chronic respiratory disease, diabetes), followed by infectious and parasitic diseases (35%), injuries and other external causes (11%) and maternal and neonatal deaths (4%).

Leading causes of death among children are acute respiratory tract infections and diarrhoeal diseases, each contributing to 13% of total deaths. Among the working population, tuberculosis contributed to 12% of total deaths, followed by HIV/AIDS (11%).

TB (20%) and HIV/AIDS (18%) are highest in the 25-34 years age group. These diseases kill more females of working age than males. Among the elderly, the leading causes of death are respiratory infections (13%) followed by gastric cancers (10%) and cardiac diseases (9%).


Dr George Lundberg is president and chair of the board of directors of the Lundberg Institute in California in the USA and an editor-at-large for Medscape. He is a clinical professor of pathology at Northwestern University at Chicago and recognised as a medical internet pioneer. D r Lundberg is also a frequent lecturer and radio and television guest and a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies in the USA.



Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Garrett Roche

As George Lundberg writes, “death is not the enemy”, listing premature death as the real enemy.

It is also written that “in Papua New Guinea the average life expectancy at birth for men is 63 years and for women, 68 years. The median age at death for Americans is 73.7 years and for Papua New Guineans 66 years.”

Accepting the validity of the statistics supplied, it may be useful at the same time to remind ourselves that some Papua New Guineans live quite long lives.

I am thinking of several cases that I know in the Western Highlands. In addition to Sir Wamp Wan I knew of some old ladies who, by my calculations, had lived past the 100 year achievement.

In the Highlands we did not have birth records from before the 1930’s. However, when one calculates approximate age of mothers at time of their first child, it is possible in some cases to make an honest calculation of age at time of death.


Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)