Symptoms, signs, and ill-defined conditions: A leading cause of death among minorities

Thomas M. Becker, Charles L. Wiggins, Charles R. Key, Jonathan M. Samei

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


The Manual of the International Classification of Diseases, Injuries, and Causes of Death includes the category, "symptoms, signs, and ill-defined conditions" for nonspecific causes of death. To determine whether this categorization of cause of death is commonly applied to New Mexico's minority populations, the authors examined state vital records data for 1958-1982. Age-specific and age-adjusted death rates were calculated by 5-year Intervals for Hispanics, American Indians, and non-Hispanic whites. Death rates attributed to symptoms, signs, and ill-defined conditions in all three major ethnic groups in New Mexico far exceeded the national rate for whites. For males in the perIod 1978-1982, American Indians had the highest rates (115.6 per 100,000 males), followed by Hispanics (58.3 per 100,000 males), and non-Hispanic whites (49.2 per 100,000 males); the national rates were 41.3 and 13.1 per 100,000 males for blacks and whites, respectively. Comparable differences were observed among females. The authors suggest that the death rate for deaths attributed to symptoms, signs, and ill-defined conditions may be a potential indicator of access to and use of health services and that the categorization may strongly affect cause-specific death rates in minority populations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)664-668
Number of pages5
JournalAmerican journal of epidemiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1990
Externally publishedYes


  • Cross-cultural comparison
  • Hispanic Americans
  • Indians
  • Mortality
  • North American

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology


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