Few studies have evaluated the years of life lost (YLL) and productivity loss due to sudden unexpected death (SUD). The burden of SUD on society is undetermined because of lack of population-based studies and comprehensive adjudication methods.
We estimated YLL and productivity loss from SUD in working-age adults and compared it with the leading causes of death in the United States.
We screened all out of hospital deaths among people aged 20–64 in Wake County, NC from 2013 to 2015 to adjudicate SUDs. We extrapolated Wake County incidence to estimate the age-standardized and sex-standardized rate of SUD in the United States. YLL was calculated based on the remaining life expectancy of the victims. Incorporating market and housekeeping value estimated the present value of lifetime productivity loss because of SUD.
SUD incidence rates in the US adults aged 20–64 were 49.3 (95% confidence interval, 41.2–58.3) and 21.7 (95% confidence interval, 16.5–27.8) per 100,000 among men and women, respectively. SUD resulted in the loss of 2 million years of life, accounting for 10.0% of YLL from all causes of death. Among natural causes of death, YLL from SUD was only lower than that from all cancers combined and heart disease. Lifetime productivity loss because of SUD was ~$51 billion, exceeding productivity loss from any individual cancer.
SUD is an important source of YLL and productivity loss among adults aged 20–64. Such a high burden on society justifies prioritizing health policies and interventions toward preventing SUD.