Deaths among drug users and those suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease have spiked across Los Angeles County but the overall death rate is steady and actually declining among some groups.

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health released a report this month showing deaths from Alzheimer’s Disease increased 71% and deaths from drug overdose increased 28% between 2008 and 2017.

According to the report, the overall mortality across the county decreased by 6.2% from 2008 to 2017, however, the decrease only occurred between 2008 and 2012. From 2012 to 2017, overall mortality showed little change.

In addition to drugs and Alzheimer’s, the report highlighted the large health disparities experienced by some geographic and demographic groups.

The report also found mortality among African-Americans remained 30% higher than the county average throughout the 10-year period. In addition, mortality among Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders was 41% higher than the county average, and among Native Americans, mortality was 27% higher than the county average.

Residents of the South LA had a 20% higher mortality rate than the county average and the Antelope Valley region was the only one of the county’s eight service planning areas that had an increase in mortality from 2008 to 2017.

“Mortality is one of the most important barometers of the health of our residents,” said Dr. Barbara Ferrer, PhD, MPH, MEd, Director, of Public Health. “These findings indicate clear areas of concern which require a collective response to the complex social conditions that contribute to the many health challenges we face as a county, especially for those residents experiencing the worst health outcomes.”

The leading cause of premature death, defined as deaths occurring before age 75, in the county population was coronary heart disease, followed by drug overdose, suicide, motor vehicle crashes, and homicide.

“These premature deaths are particularly tragic, as they are almost always preventable,” said Paul Simon, MD, MPH, Chief Science Officer for Public Health. “Not only do we need to take action to enhance integrated health care, mental health, and drug treatment services, but we must all work to create safer environments and more equitable institutional supports to ensure that all people have the opportunities and resources they need to be healthy, irrespective of race or income.”

The report did show some areas of progress.

Although coronary heart disease was the leading cause of death, accounting for 18% of all deaths in the county in 2017, mortality associated with this cause decreased by 29% from 2008 to 2017. Mortality from lung cancer and chronic obstructive lung disease (COPD), both associated with smoking, decreased by 27% and 15%, respectively, during the 10-year period.

For more information and a copy of the report, visit

Matthew Hall

Matthew Hall has a Masters Degree in International Journalism from City University in London and has been Editor-in-Chief of SMDP since 2014. Prior to working at SMDP he managed a chain of weekly papers...

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