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Mapping of fatalities forecasts death trends
By Xin Dingding (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-08-07 00:48

A new released study has allowed Chinese scientists to map out patterns of death among the Chinese population.

Yang Gonghuan, professor and director of Institute of Basic Medical Sciences at the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, said people can decipher information such as the distribution of disease, factors causing deaths and trends from the findings.

The project is based on data gathered between 1991 and 2000. It was provided by the national disease monitoring system.

"We do an annual analysis of the data, but it is not easy to analyze trends," said Yang, the major researcher behind the project which was initiated two years ago.

Actual factors causing death vary among areas, which complicates such a study.

"Mapping can show differences which we believe will benefit both the public and researchers in public health," Yang said.

The research has so far uncovered four major findings.

According to the professor, the death rate caused by infectious diseases is still high in remote countryside of China. But the death rate for the population has remained steady since 1990.

"The death rate should have decreased as living conditions and the health care situation improved, but the aging of the population has counteracted the decrease," she said.

The research found that lung cancer has replaced stomach cancer as the top reason for death among all kinds of cancers.

With smoking rampant in China, statistics show an average 40.24 out of 100,000 people dying perish from lung cancer.

Before 1990s, stomach cancer was always the top cause of death among all cancers.

Yang Gonghuan noted the situation is "worrying".

"The current death rate caused by lung cancer is related to tobacco consumption in the 1970s, a period when restrictions were imposed on tobacco supply," she said.

But smoking, the greatest cause for lung cancer, does not show its effect until 20 or 30 years after the fact, she said.

Statistics have indicated that tobacco consumption in 1990s has increased by 2.2 times of that in 1970s, and a survey in 1996 found two-thirds of men in China smoke.

"Therefore, in the next 20 years, the death rate caused by lung cancer will continue to grow," said she.

The research also finds that deaths caused by traffic accidents have increased prominently in the past decade.

Statistics in the year 2000 show that traffic accidents have replaced suicide as the top cause of injury-related deaths.

Suicide was formerly the key reason among all injury-related deaths back in 1991.

"In addition, the death rates caused by traffic accidents in the countryside is much higher than that in urban areas," said Yang.

She said it is related to the quality of vehicles, the status of roads and whether drivers are tired, drunk or driving without licences.

According to the research, suicide statistics in China will change.

Experts predict the numbers of suicides by men in urban areas will gradually surpass those among women.

"It is probably because the pressure on men is generally heavier than that on women," she said.

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