Objective: To describe mortality trends and potential years of life lost (PYLL) due to leading causes of death in 21 Caribbean countries during 1985, 1990, 1995 and 2000.
Methods: Mortality data for 1985, 1990, 1995 and 2000 were analyzed to identify regional mortality trends using crude, age-specific and age-adjusted death rates and potential years of life lost. The variables used were age, gender and underlying cause of death.
Results: During 1985–2000, there was an overall 5% decrease in age-adjusted mortality rates and male mortality exceeded female mortality. Heart disease was the leading cause of death, with cancers, cerebrovascular diseases, diabetes mellitus and hypertensive disease also among the top five causes in most years. Prostate cancer and cancer of the uterus and breast were the leading causes of death due to cancers. HIV disease (AIDS) featured in the ten leading causes of death for the first time in 1995 and was the 5th leading cause in 2000.
Conclusion: During the period 1985–2000, countries experienced an increase in mortality due to noncommunicable diseases, AIDS and assaults (homicides); the latter two causes were most common among the 15–44 year age group. In 2000, AIDS, heart disease and assault (homicide) were the largest contributors to PYLL.