COVID Drops to Fourth Place in Causes of Death in US

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The number of deaths caused by COVID was more than halved in 2022, compared to the toll the virus wrought in 2021, according to new CDC data. The decline drops COVID from third place to fourth place as a leading cause of death in the U.S. 

Of the more than 3.2 million people who died in the U.S. in 2022, 186,702 died of COVID, the new data shows.

The top causes of death in 2022 were:

  • Heart disease: 699,659 deaths, compared to 695,547 in 2021.

  • Cancer: 607,790 deaths, compared to 605,213 in 2021.

  • Accidents and unintentional injuries: 218,064 deaths, compared to 224,935 in 2021.

  • COVID: 186,702 deaths, compared to 416,893 in 2021.

When taking into account COVID as not the underlying cause but instead as a contributing factor in a different cause of death, the virus would edge ahead of accidents for third place. Increases in drug overdose deaths were observed in the accidents and unintentional injuries category for 2022.

The overall death rate in the U.S. declined from 2021 to 2022 by 5.3%.

The report presented two different ways of measuring the top killers in the U.S., which are total deaths by cause and death rate. Sometimes the death rate is a better indicator for year-to-year comparisons because it takes into account changes in total population. In 2022, there were 833 deaths per 100,000 people, compared to 880 deaths per 100,000 people in 2021.

Men had a higher death rate than women for all age categories, and also men were more likely than women to die of COVID. The overall death rate for Black people and for Native American people rose from 2021 to 2022.

The three groups with the highest death rates in the U.S. were males, older adults, and Black people. The highest death rates occurred during January and December. The rate of deaths caused by heart disease climbed for the third straight year, which one expert told The Washington Post should raise concerns.

“The findings are even more impressive since the nation has lost many older people who were most vulnerable to heart disease through the course of the pandemic,” Yale School of Medicine cardiologist Harlan Krumholz, MD, told the  Post . “This may represent further evidence that the health of Americans continues to decline despite the enormous sum we spend on health care.”

The report authors noted that data are provisional and could be adjusted as more information and death certificates are received.


CDC: “Provisional Mortality Data — United States, 2022,” “Leading Causes of Death (2021).”

The Washington Post: “Covid was fourth leading cause of death in 2022, CDC data shows.”

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