This year’s Alaska Vital Statistics report, released by the State Department of Health and Social Services, paints our region as a place where more children are born to teenage mothers than the state average, and more people die younger from accidents, alcohol, gunshots, and suicide than is normal for the rest of Alaska.
There were over 11,000 children born in Alaska in 2016, down slightly from 2015, with the Kusilvak Census Area having both the highest fertility rate and the highest rate of teen pregnancy in Alaska. There were 570 children adopted last year with more Alaska Natives adopted than any other racial group.
Though cancer was the number one cause of death in Alaska, followed by heart disease, accidents were the third largest cause of death. Again, Western Alaska had a higher rate of accidents than the rest of the state. The rate increased by 11 percent statewide this year from such things as poison, noxious substances, and drowning.
Alaska can be hard on youth. There were 87 deaths of children under 19 in the state last year and the leading cause of death was unintentional injuries.
Not being able to breathe, whether from asthma or some other cause, is the fourth leading cause of death in Alaska and the Kusilvak Census in Western Alaska has some of the highest rates of death from loss of breath. This Census Area also had the highest rate of death from strokes.
Suicide is the sixth leading cause of death in Alaska, claiming 186 people. Alaska Natives were twice as likely as any other ethnic group to take their own lives; more than half of them used a gun.
Overall, guns claimed the lives of 174 Alaskans last year. Most were men. Again, the Kusilvak Census Area had some of the highest rates, and again these were people who died much younger than those who died from cancer or other diseases.
The number of deaths in Alaska related to alcohol, a figure that includes both liver disease and alcohol poisoning, increased by 16 percent. The Yukon-Koyukok Census area in Western Alaska had the highest death rate in that category.
Assault and homicide used to be the tenth leading cause of death, but influenza and pneumonia took that dubious honor last year, claiming the lives of 60 people in 2016.