Who's More at Risk: Pneumonia Survival Rates

By Michelle Cemental

Pneumonia can be a life-threatening infection for some, but for others, it may pass quickly and just cause mild symptoms. So, what makes the difference? Age has a major impact on the severity of pneumonia along with underlying health conditions. But there are other factors that affect pneumonia survival rates. Let’s dive into the numbers and explore who is the most at risk of dying from pneumonia.  

Pneumonia Death Rates 

By Age 

Age is one is one of the biggest risk factors for pneumonia. Seniors are likely to have weaker immune systems and suffer from chronic diseases. Plus, they often live in close quarters — like nursing homes — where infections can spread more quickly.

Discover more reasons why seniors are at higher risk in this post: Why Are Seniors So Prone to Severe Pneumonia? 

That being said, adults ages 70+ make up over 88% of pneumonia deaths in the US. In fact, pneumonia is the 5th leading cause of death among seniors. Below is the annual number of deaths from pneumonia in the US per 100,000 people in each age group. 

  • 70+ year olds: 214 
  • 50–69 year olds: 23 
  • 15–49 year olds: 2 
  • 5–15 year olds: 0.3 
  • 0–5 year olds: 3 

By Gender 

Gender is another factor in the survivability of pneumonia. The American Lung Association has provided data on the death rates of pneumonia and influenza in the US by age. While these infections are not the same, influenza is one of the most common causes of pneumonia. Below is the annual number of deaths from pneumonia and influenza in the US per 100,000 people by gender.  

  • Men: 19 
  • Women: 14 

Therefore, men are about 25% more likely to die from these infections than women. This statistic is interesting because women were slightly more likely to be hospitalized due to pneumonia/influenza, but they were more likely to recover.  

By Ethnicity 

The American Lung Association also provides the death rates of pneumonia and influenza in the US by ethnicity. Below is the annual number of deaths from pneumonia and influenza in the US per 100,000 people by ethnicity. 

  • White: 16 
  • Black: 17 
  • American Indian/Alaska Native: 19 
  • Asian/Pacific Islander: 15 
  • Hispanic: 13 

Compared to whites, death rate was 21% higher in American Indians or Alaska Natives and 8% higher in blacks. However, the pneumonia/influenza death rate was 18% lower among Hispanics and 6% lower among Asians or Pacific Islanders.  

By State 

Within the US, each state has its own pneumonia mortality rate. The range in these rates could be due to a number of different factors, including climate, state infrastructure, etc. However, where you live could have some affect on the pneumonia rates.  

Below are the 10 highest and 10 lowest pneumonia/influenza death rates per state. If you don’t see your state on the list, you can review the complete list on the CDC website.  

States with the Lowest Pneumonia Mortality Rate 

  1. Vermont: 6% 
  2. Alaska: 7% 
  3. Minnesota 8% 
  4. Colorado 8% 
  5. Florida 8% 
  6. Oregon: 9% 
  7. Washington: 10% 
  8. Wisconsin: 10% 
  9. Arizona: 10% 
  10. New Hampshire: 10%  

States with the Highest Pneumonia Mortality Rate 

  1. Mississippi: 23% 
  2. Hawaii: 17% 
  3. Arkansas: 17% 
  4. Alabama: 17% 
  5. New York: 17% 
  6. Tennessee: 16% 
  7. West Virginia: 16% 
  8. South Dakota: 16% 
  9. Kentucky: 16% 
  10. Maine: 15% 

Pneumonia Prevention 

If you are at a higher risk for pneumonia, it’s important to take preventative measures to remain healthy — especially during the cooler months. Here are some ways that you can reduce your risk of getting this lung infection.  

  • Get the flu vaccine. The flu can cause pneumonia, so you can get a flu shot each year to reduce your risk of getting influenza.  
  • Get the pneumonia vaccine. There is also a vaccine for pneumonia to prevent the form of pneumonia caused by pneumococcal bacteria.  
  • Wash your hands. Maintain good hygiene by washing your hands frequently with soap and water. If you aren’t able to wash your hands, then use hand sanitizer.  
  • Eat healthily. Keep your immune system strong and ready to fight off infections by maintaining a healthy diet.  
  • Don’t smoke. Smoking damages your lungs and can make it harder for your body to recover from infections, germs, and diseases. Try to quit smoking as soon as possible.  
  • Avoid sick people. This might seem simple, but if you are around sick people, then you put yourself at higher risk of getting sick. Reduce your exposure to sick individuals as much as possible.  
  • Get enough rest. The immune system needs time to recharge, so getting enough sleep can help keep your defenses up.  

Get more statistics about pneumonia and how it affects the senior population in our infographic: Dangers of Pneumonia in the Elderly. And if you or a loved one gets pneumonia this year, reach out to our team! Our caregivers are specially trained to assist seniors recovering from pneumonia while reducing the chance that the infection spreads. Our Pneumonia Specialty Program can provide seniors with the support and assistance they need to help them recover. Reach out to your local Caring office to learn more.

Personalized care for seniors with pneumonia

Tags: Pneumonia