People with Down syndrome are now living much longer. In the United States, median age at death increased from 25 years in 1983 to 49 years in 1997, with a substantial decrease in deaths before age five years. Data on all deaths for persons with Down syndrome (n = 17 897) were selected from officially compiled, multiple-cause mortality files for all deaths from 1983 to 1997, then compared with a random sample of 25% of all deaths. Standardised mortality odds ratios (SMORs) were calculated, adjusted for age, sex, race and year of birth. Death certificates for people with Down syndrome were significantly more likely to list congenital heart defects (peaking at age 20–29 years, SMOR 85.5 [95% CI, 75.9–96.4]), dementia (SMOR, 116.0 [95% CI, 93.6–143.8] at age 40–49 years), hypothyroidism, seizure disorder, aspiration pneumonia, influenza, viral hepatitis, or leukaemia.
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