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"Dying before their time" in Detroit

Detroit residents over 50 are hospitalized more often and die earlier than people in other parts of the state.

That’s according to a new report, “Dying Before Their Time II: The Startling Truth of Senior Mortality in Detroit and Other Urban Michigan Communities.”

The difference between those two groups is starkest in the 50-59 age bracket.

The researchers found that Detroiters in that age range die at a 131% higher rate than other Michiganders. In fact, they die at roughly the same rate as other Michiganders ages 60-74. Detroiters also end up in the hospital 30% more often.

The study was conducted by research team from Wayne State University’s School of Medicine/Detroit Medical Center. They examined mortality trends from 1999 to 2009, focusing on three-year period between 2007 and 2009.

For seniors ages 60-74, Detroit’s death rate exceeded the rest of the state by about 60%.

Paul Bridgewater is President and CEO of the Detroit Area Agency of Aging, the group that commissioned the report. He says the report’s analysis shows that chronic health conditions are the primary source of the problem.

“This premature death comes about because of people not taking care of their chronic diseases, such as diabetes, hypertension, heart disease…that lead to other complications,” Bridgewater said.

Bridgewater says for the 50-59 age group, the problem has actually gotten worse over the past 10 years. “There’s also an increase in chronic illnesses, and chronic complications,” he said.

Bridgewater says those chronic conditions are largely to blame for Detroiters’ higher mortality and hospitalization rates. And behind that, he says, is a lack of health insurance and access to health care.

The research also shows people in 19 of Michigan’s other “urban centers” face similar problems.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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