From the Journals

Black men at higher risk for mortality from sleep apnea


There has been a flattening of sleep apnea–related mortality rates in the United States over the past 10 years. The exception is among Black men, for whom mortality from sleep apnea has continuously increased over the past 21 years, new research shows.

“OSA (obstructive sleep apnea) has been recognized as an important cause of medical morbidity and mortality and contributes to the development of systemic hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and abnormalities in glucose metabolism,” noted Yu-Che Lee, MD, University at Buffalo–Catholic Health System, Buffalo, N.Y., and colleagues.

“This study provides the first systematic assessment and demonstrates remarkable demographic disparities of age-adjusted sleep apnea–related mortality in the U.S., with higher rates in males than females and Blacks than Whites,” they concluded.

The study was published online in Sleep Medicine.

Twenty-one year interval

Data on sleep apnea–related mortality were obtained from the National Center for Health Statistics and were provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the years 1999-2019. Over that 21-year interval, sleep apnea was documented as the underlying cause of death in 17,053 decedents, including 2,593 Black patients and 14,127 White patients.

The age-adjusted mortality rate attributed to sleep apnea was 2.5 per 1,000,000 population. The mortality rate was higher for men, at 3.1 per 1,000,000, than among women, 1.9 per 1,000,000 (P < .001). For both sexes, “unadjusted mortality rates were higher in groups aged ≥ 35 years, and the highest mortality rates were observed in groups aged 75-84,” the authors noted. The rate was 11.3 per 1,000,000 for those aged 75-84 and 13.3 per 1,000,000 for those older than 85.

This was also true among Black and White patients, the authors added, although the age-adjusted mortality rate was higher among Black patients than among other racial groups, at 3.5 per 1,000,000 (P < .001). “Over the 21-year study period, the overall age-adjusted mortality rate rose from 1.2 per 1,000,000 population in 1999 to 2.8 per 1,000,000 in 2019,” Dr. Lee and colleagues noted. While the annual percentage change in sleep apnea–related mortality rose by 10.2% (95% confidence interval [CI], 8.4%-12.0%) between 1999 and 2018, no significant change was observed between 2008 and 2019.

On the other hand, when examined by race and sex, age-adjusted mortality rates increased significantly by an annual percentage change of 7.5% (95% CI, 3.3%-11.9%) among Black women and by 8.2% (95% CI, 6.8%-9.6%) between 1999 and 2009 in White men and by 11.5% (95% CI, 8.9%-14.1%) in White women. “Again, these uptrends were no longer observed after that time interval,” the authors stressed.

Only among Black men was there no turning point in age-adjusted mortality rates; they experienced a steady, significant, 2.7% (95% CI, 1.2%-4.2%) annual percent increase in age-adjusted mortality rate between 1999 and 2019. The highest age-adjusted mortality rate for Black persons was recorded in Indiana, at 6.5 per 1,000,000 population; Utah recorded the highest mortality rate for White persons, at 5.7 per 1,000,000.

For both Black persons and White persons, the lowest mortality rates were in New York, at 1.2 per 1,000,000 and 1.5 per 1,000,000, respectively. Among four geographic regions analyzed, the highest age-adjusted mortality rates were in the Midwest for both sexes; Black men in the West and those in three other regional groups in the Northwest had the lowest mortality rates.


Next Article: