Last year, 6,216 Alaskans lost their lives, continuing the sharp rise which began in 2020 with 5,196 deaths.

Prior to the arrival of Covid in 2020, Alaska had experienced a slow but steady increase in annual deaths, with an average of roughly 4,200 deaths per year over the prior eight years. The onset of Covid, however, does not fully explain the dramatic increase in annual deaths.

Covid was listed as the third leading cause of death last year with 762 deaths. Even if all Covid cases were subtracted from the overall count, 2021 still saw nearly 1,000 more deaths than were recorded in either 2018 or 2017.

According to the latest data from the Alaska Dept. of Health, the two leading causes of death in 2021 were malignant neoplasms (also known as cancerous tumors) which accounted for 1,091 deaths, and diseases of heart (1,011 deaths). While these are consistently the top two cause of death in Alaska, both categories have significantly increased over the past three years. In 2018, there were 957 deaths caused by cancer, and just 816 from heart diseases.

In 2021, men accounted for 59% of deaths while women made up 41%. The average age at the time of death was 68.3 years for women, 64.2 years for men, and 65.9 years overall.

The average life expectancy in Alaska continued to decline, going from 82.6 years in 2017 to 77.5 years in 2021.

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Alaska deaths skyrocket in 2021

Joel Davidson
Joel is Editor-in-Chief of the Alaska Watchman. Joel is an award winning journalist and has been reporting for over 24 years, He is a proud father of 8 children, and lives in Palmer, Alaska.