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West Virginia

 Vital Statistics - 2002
Executive Summary

Population | Live Births | Deaths | YPLL | Infant Deaths | Neonatal/postneonatal deaths | Fetal Deaths | Marriages | Divorces and Annulments | Summary


For the sixth year in a row, more state residents died than were born. In 2002, 274 West Virginians were lost to the total population as a result of natural decrease, the excess of deaths over births. The rate of natural decrease was 0.2 persons per 1,000 population. Results from the 2002 Census estimate show an overall decrease (approximately 0.4%) in the state’s population since 2000, from 1,808,344 to 1,801,873. This decrease is the result of an overall natural decrease and an excess of outmigration over inmigration during that span.

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Live Births

West Virginia resident live births increased by 295, from 20,430 in 2001 to 20,725 in 2002. The 2002 birth rate of 11.5 per 1,000 population also rose from 11.3 in 2001. The U.S. 2002 birth rate was 13.9 live births per 1,000 population, lower than 2001 (14.1). As the graph below shows, West Virginia’s birth rate has been below the national rate since 1980. It has continued its overall decline, interrupted by slight upturns in 1989 through 1991, 1999, and 2002.

Graph of U.S. and W.V. birth rates from 1980 to 2002.

The 2002 U.S. fertility rate of 64.8 live births per 1,000 women aged 15-44 was 0.9% lower than the 2001 rate (65.4). West Virginia’s fertility rate, however, increased 1.9% from 54.6 in 2001 to 55.6 in 2002. A comparison of West Virginia and United States age-specific fertility rates is displayed below:

Fertility Rates* by Age Group
West Virginia and United States, 2002
15-1920-44Total (15-44)
43.1 43.0 57.9 68.7 55.6 64.8

* All fertility rates were calculated using 2000 population, U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census.
** National Center for Health Statistics, National Vital Statistics Report, Vol. 52, No. 10, December 17, 2003.

The fertility rate among women aged 15-19 in West Virginia was 0.2% higher than that among young women in the U.S. (43.1 vs. 43.0). The fertility rate among women aged 20-44, however, was 15.7% lower in the state than in the nation (57.9 vs. 68.7).

The number of births to teenage mothers decreased by 23 (0.9%), from 2,669 in 2001 to 2,646 in 2002. The percentage of total births represented by teenage births decreased from 13.1% in 2001 to 12.8% in 2002. The significantly lower fertility rate among older women, however, resulted in teenage births continuing to constitute a higher proportion of total births than is found nationally (10.8% in 2002).

The percentage of births occurring out of wedlock rose from 2001, and once again nearly one out of every three (32.8%) West Virginia resident births was to an unwed mother. The percentages of white and black births that occurred out of wedlock in West Virginia in 2002 were 31.6% and 72.1%, respectively, compared to 30.9% and 77.1% in 2001. In the United States in 2002, 28.5% of white births and 68.2% of births to black mothers occurred out of wedlock. The percentage of teenage births to unmarried teenage mothers in the state decreased minimally from 71.5% in 2001 to 71.4% in 2002.

There were a total of 1,915 low birthweight babies (those weighing less than 2,500 grams or 5½ pounds) born to West Virginia residents in 2002, 9.2% of all births. Of the 1,909 low birthweight infants with known gestational age, 1,307 or 68.5% were preterm babies born before 37 weeks of gestation. (Of all 2002 resident births with a known gestational age, 11.7% were preterm babies.) Of the births with known birthweight, 14.2% of babies born to black mothers and 9.1% of babies born to white mothers were low birthweight. Nationally, 7.7% of all infants weighed less than 2,500 grams at birth in 2002; 6.8% of white infants and 13.3% of black infants were of low birthweight.

Eighty-six percent (86.0%) of West Virginia mothers with known prenatal care began their care during the first trimester of pregnancy, compared to 83.7% of mothers nationwide in 2002. Among those with known prenatal care, 86.4% of the white mothers began care during the first trimester; 75.9% of black mothers did so. (U.S. figures show 85.4% of white mothers and 75.2% of black mothers.) No prenatal care was received by 0.4% of white mothers and by 1.3% of black mothers.

Over one-fourth (26.0%) of the 20,725 births in 2002 were to mothers who smoked during their pregnancies, while 0.4% of births were to women who used alcohol. National figures show that 11.4% of women giving birth reported smoking during pregnancy and 0.8% used alcohol. Of the state mothers who reported smoking during pregnancy, 13.6% of the babies born were low birthweight, compared to 7.7% for non-smoking mothers. U.S. statistics show 12.2% births to smoking mothers were low birthweight and 7.5% for non-smoking mothers. Nearly thirty percent (29.3%) of 2002 state births were delivered by Cesarean section, compared to a national rate of 26.0%. One or more complications of labor and/or delivery were reported for 32.1% of deliveries in the state in 2002.

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Effective in 1999, the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) and World Health Organization (WHO) adopted the 10th revision to the International Classification of Diseases -- now known as ICD-10. This is the first revision since 1979 and includes a more comprehensive classification of causes of death. Previously, all causes of death were coded numerically. Now all causes of death are coded alpha-numerically, allowing many more possible causes (Table 42, pages 95-121). When comparing 1999 deaths to earlier years, differences between ICD-9 coding and ICD-10 coding must be taken into account. Appendix B contains a more detailed explanation of ICD-10, as well as the new selected causes of death listing.

The number of West Virginia resident deaths increased by 21, from 20,978 in 2001 to 20,999 in 2002. The state’s crude death rate also increased from 11.6 per 1,000 population in 2001 to 11.7. The average age at death for West Virginians was 72.5 (68.5 for men and 76.4 for women). One hundred and twenty-five West Virginia residents who died in 2002 were age 100 or older. The oldest woman was 109 years old at the time of death, while the oldest man was 107 years old.

Heart disease, cancer, and stroke, the three leading causes of death, accounted for 57.6% of West Virginia resident deaths in 2002. Compared to 2001, the number of state deaths due to heart disease decreased 1.3% while cancer deaths decreased 0.6%. Deaths due to stroke, which surpassed chronic lower respiratory diseases for the first time since 1999, also decreased 2.0%, while chronic lower respiratory disease mortality decreased 4.3%. Diabetes mellitus deaths increased 4.5%, while the number of reported deaths due to pneumonia and influenza decreased substantially (28.2%) from 2001 to 2002. Mortality resulting from accidents increased by 107, from 840 in 2001 to 947 in 2002. Motor vehicle accident deaths continued to number fewer than the 435 deaths in 1993, the year the West Virginia seatbelt law took effect; they increased by 44 (12.0%) from 368 in 2001 to 412 in 2002. Accidental poisoning deaths continued to increase, from 127 in 2001 to 156 in 2002.

Accidents were the leading cause of death for ages one through 44 years. Even with the precipitous drop in motor vehicle accident deaths between 1993 and 1994, such fatalities remained the single leading cause of death for young adults aged 15 through 34, accounting for 27.7% of all deaths for this age group in 2002, compared with 29.1% in 2001. West Virginia’s 2002 motor vehicle fatalities included three children under five years of age, compared to eight in 2001.

Suicides decreased by thirteen (290 to 277, or 4.5%) between 2001 and 2002. Male suicides decreased 2.9 %, from 245 in 2001 to 238 in 2002; the number of female suicides (39) decreased by six or 13.3% from 2001. Almost seventy percent (69.7%) of all suicide deaths were firearm related — 74.4% of male suicides and 41.0% of female suicides. The average age of death for a suicide victim in 2002 was 45.2 years. While suicide was the 11th leading cause of death overall, it was still the second leading cause of death for ages 15-34. The number of suicides among persons aged 19 and under nearly tripled, from 8 in 2001 to 22 in 2002.

Homicides in West Virginia increased by 31, from 67 in 2001 to 98 in 2002. Sixty-eight (68) of the homicide victims were male, 30 were female. The average age at death for a homicide victim in 2002 was 35.6 years. There were six homicide victims under the age of five in 2002, compared to two in 2001. About two-thirds (66.3%) of 2002 homicide deaths were due to firearms.

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Years of Potential Life Lost (YPLL)

YPLL is a measure of mortality, calculated as the difference between age 75 (an average life span) and the age at death. Using YPLL before age 75, the sum of YPLL across all causes of death represents the total YPLL for all persons dying before the age of 75. A person dying at the age of 45 would therefore contribute 30 years to the total YPLL (75-45=30). YPLL is an important tool in emphasizing and evaluating causes of premature death. In our previous reports, data for YPLL before age 65 were presented.

The YPLL from all causes increased 7.0%, from 152,199 YPLL in 2001 to 162,798 in 2002. The three leading causes of YPLL in 2002 were once again malignant neoplasms (34,978 YPLL), diseases of the heart (27,991 YPLL), and motor vehicle accidents (14,150 YPLL). Combined, these three causes accounted for around half (46.2%) of all years of potential life lost in 2002. In comparison to 2001, YPLL attributable to malignant neoplasms decreased from 22.8% of the total to 21.5%. YPLL due to diseases of the heart also decreased from 18.2% to 17.2%, but the percentage of total YPLL due to motor vehicle crashes increased, from 8.4% to 8.7%.


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Infant Deaths

Deaths of infants under one year of age rose substantially by 39, from 149 in 2001 to 188 in 2002. West Virginia’s infant mortality rate also increased, from 7.3 per 1,000 live births in 2001 to 9.1. The U.S. provisional 2002 infant mortality rate was 7.0, up slightly from 6.9 in 2001.

The following table shows the decline in the national and state infant mortality rates from 1950 through 2002.

1950 - 2002 Infant Mortality
West Virginia and United States
(Number and Rate per 1,000 Live Births)
Year West Virginia United States
1950 31.4 29.2
1955 27.1 26.4
1960 25.3 26.0
1965 27.1 24.5
1970 23.3 20.0
1975 18.3 16.1
1980 11.8 12.6
1985 10.7 10.6
1990 9.8 9.1
1991 8.1 8.9
1992 9.1 8.5
1993 8.6 8.3
1994 6.1 8.1
1995 7.6 7.5
1996 7.2 7.2
1997 9.5 7.2
1998 8.1 7.2
1999 7.6 7.1
2000 7.6 6.9
2001 7.3 6.9
2002 9.1 7.0

The state’s 2001 white infant mortality rate increased 18.1%, from 7.2 in 2001 to 8.5, while the rate for black infants more than doubled (145.2%), from 11.5 to 28.2 (see statistical variation in Methodology on page 9). West Virginia’s 2002 race-specific infant mortality rates and comparable U.S. rates are shown in the table below.

2002 West Virginia and United States
Infant Mortality by Race
(Number and Rate per 1,000 Live Births
Race of Infant West Virginia United States
Number Rate Number Rate
All Races 188 9.1 27,977 7.0
White 169 8.5 18,390 5.8
Black 19 28.2 8,446 14.2
Other 0 0.0 1,141 4.5

Approximately one in seven (14.4%) infant deaths in 2002 was due to SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome). Twenty percent (20.2%) were the result of congenital malformations, while 51.1% were due to certain conditions originating in the perinatal period, including disorders relating to short gestation and unspecified low birthweight (9.6%).

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Neonatal/Postneonatal Deaths

The number of neonatal deaths dropped by only one, from 110 in 2001 to 109 in 2002; the neonatal death rate also decreased from 5.4 deaths among infants under 28 days per 1,000 live births in 2001 to 5.3 in 2002. Neonatal deaths comprised 58.0% of all West Virginia resident infant deaths in 2002, compared to 73.8% in 2001. The rate of postneonatal deaths increased from 1.9 deaths per 1,000 neonatal survivors in 2001 to 3.8 in 2002. The 2002 U.S. neonatal death rate was 4.7, while the postneonatal rate was 2.3 deaths per 1,000 neonatal survivors.

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Fetal Deaths

The 140 resident fetal deaths occurring after 20 or more weeks of gestation reported in 2002 were 13 fewer than 2001 (153). The fetal death ratio also decreased from 7.5 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2001 to 6.8 in 2001. The majority (85.7%) of fetal deaths were due to conditions originating in the perinatal period, including complications of placenta, cord, and membrane (37.1%), maternal conditions (1.4%), maternal complications (12.1%), short gestation and low birthweight (7.1%), and other ill-defined perinatal conditions (18.6%). Congenital malformations accounted for 14.3% of all fetal deaths.

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For the second year in a row and following a dramatic increase due to the passage of a new law that became effective June 2, 1999*, the number of marriages in West Virginia decreased from 14,581 in 2001 to 14,558 in 2002. The marriage rate in 2002 was 8.1 per 1,000 population, same as 2001. The 2001 U.S. provisional rate was 7.9.

For all marriages in 2002, the median age for brides was 27 and for grooms 29. For first marriages, the median age for brides was 23 and for grooms was 25. The mode (most frequently reported age) for all marriages as well as first marriages was 22 for brides and 23 for grooms.

*The new law removed the three-day waiting period for persons aged 18 and older as well as the requirement for a blood test for syphilis.

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Divorces and Annulments

The number of divorces increased by 21 or 0.2%, from 9,421 in 2001 to 9,442 in 2002. The 2002 rate of 5.2 per 1,000 population was the same as 2001. The 2000 U.S. provisional rate was 4.0 per 1,000 population.

Of the 9,442 divorces in West Virginia in 2002, the median duration of marriage was 7 years. Over half (52.2%) of the divorces involved no children under 18 years of age in the family, while one child was involved in 24.1% of all divorces and two children were involved in 17.4%. Three divorces involved six or more children.

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The number of West Virginia resident births increased by 295 from 20,430 in 2001 to 20,725 in 2002. West Virginia resident deaths also increased from 20,978 in 2001 to 20,999 in 2002. The number of infant deaths increased by 39, from 149 in 2001 to 188 in 2002. Fetal deaths of 20 or more weeks gestation fell from 153 in 2001 to 140 in 2002. Marriages decreased for the second time in four years, from 14,581 in 2001 to 14,558 in 2002, while divorces increased by 21, from 9,421 in 2001 to 9,442 in 2002.

Cover photo of Babcock State Park

Cover photo and description - 40K


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Last updated 1/07/03.