Impoverished Lake County Death Rate Is Double the State Average

Thursday, September 05, 2013

When the California Department of Public Health released its annual report (pdf) on the relative health of counties in the state, its director, Dr. Ron Chapman, said, “These trends point to a healthier California.”

That may be true for California as a whole, but not so much in Lake County, where the death rate is double the state average. Even if you adjust the numbers for age, aging Lake County is still 51% higher than the state average, at 989.2 deaths per 100,000 people, and dead last among the 58 counties.

The “County Health Status Profiles 2013” report used mortality data collected from 2009-2011. When comparisons were made to earlier years, data from 2006-2008 was used.

The county, located northwest of Sacramento, showed worse results in most categories compared to the year before, when its residents also had the state’s worst health. Lake County Public Health Officer Dr. Karen Tait told the Lake County News, “It’s hard to sugar coat our health data.”

The age-adjusted death rate from all cancers was 23.6% higher than the state average, led by a 57.8% higher death rate from lung cancer. Lake County residents smoke a lot. The Santa Rosa Press Democrat cited numbers from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation that indicate one-fourth of the residents light up.

They also eat and drink a lot. Only one-third has what the foundation considered a “healthy weight” and 22% drink too much. They die of chronic liver disease and cirrhosis nearly twice as often as the rest of the state.

They are also poor. The U.S. Census Bureau reports the median household income in the county was $35,525 between 2007 and 2011. That compares unfavorably to the California median of $61,632. Unemployment peaked at 19.1% in 2010 but is still in double digits. Doctors and dentists are in short supply.

The Santa Rosa newspaper dug up some other depressing numbers that give context to the county’s woeful state of health. 71% of the children qualify for free or reduced-price lunches and one in five residents are over the age of 65. The population of old people is growing.

Although the state showed an increase in deaths due to Alzheimer’s disease and an uptick in the incidence of Chlamydia, there were declines in deaths from heart disease, stroke, breast cancer, prostate cancer and colorectal cancer. There were fewer incidence of tuberculosis.

Not so in Lake County. Female breast cancer, prostate cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, stroke and chronic lower respiratory disease were all up. Cancers were lower, but not by much.

Lake County residents kill each other and themselves a lot more often than those in the rest of the state. Firearm-related deaths are double the state average, traffic accident deaths are triple and drug-induced deaths are quadruple.  

–Ken Broder


To Learn More:

Health Report Shows Lake County's Death Rate Is Twice the State Average (by Mary Callahan, Santa Rosa Press Democrat)

New State Report Gives Lake County Low Marks for Critical Health Factors (by Elizabeth Larson, Lake County News)

How Californians Die: State Mortality Rates by County (Sacramento Bee)

County Health Status Profiles 2013 (California Department of Public Health) (pdf)

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