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SB Co. publishes data on death rate, includes first year of pandemic

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Posted at 2:40 PM, Jul 18, 2022

A new report that looks at death data across Santa Barbara County was published Monday.

The Public Health Department shared the findings, which looked at leading causes and rates of death across different demographics from 2018 through 2020.

9,857 people died in the three-year period, or about 0.7% of the nearly 450,000 residents of Santa Barbara County. Health officials say that puts the mortality rate of Santa Barbara County residents 8% below the rate across California.

The number of Santa Barbara County residents who died from 2018 to 2020 went up compared to previous years, but health officials say when adjusted for age, the death rate is on the decline.

Leading causes of death

Cancer and heart disease were the two leading causes of death across the county.

A new category was the third most common cause of death: unintentional injuries.

The CDC places car accidents, unintentional falls and unintentional poisonings in the category.

In prior years, the category has regularly ranked 5th or 6th most common cause of death in Santa Barbara County, but its frequency has gone up each year since 2013. It rose from 16.3 deaths per 100,000 people in 2013 to 39.1 deaths per 100,000 people in the most recent report.

Alzheimer's disease, stroke, chronic lower respiratory disease, diabetes, liver disease, suicide and the flu were the 4th-10th leading causes of death.


Men died at a higher rate than women did in the county, health officials say. Compared to women, men had a 39% higher death rate for cancer, a 26% higher death rate for heart disease and a 63% higher death rate for unintentional injuries.

When measuring across race and ethnicity, health officials say death rates went down significantly among Asian/Pacific Islanders, multiracial and Hispanic residents.

The death rate among white residents went up 46% percent, reaching a rate nearly 3 times higher than the Hispanic death rate, which went down 40% in the same time period.

COVID-19 deaths in 2020

The compiled report includes a section dedicated to deaths from COVID-19 during the first year of the pandemic.

174 county residents died from COVID-19 in 2020, including 80 women and 94 men. The pandemic caused an average 30.5 deaths per 100,000 people, ranking just under stroke, the 5th leading cause of death in the county, which has a death rate of 33.7 per 100,000 people.

Deaths from COVID-19 were highest among male and white populations in the county.

North Santa Barbara County had the highest death rate from COVID-19 in 2020.

Senior Epidemiologist Joy Kane says the Public Health Department will publish a more detailed report that analyzes how race/ethnicity and location play a role in mortality rates.

Death reports from 2013 through 2020 are available online at Santa Barbara County Public Health's website.