February 16, 2012

Top 10 Causes of Death

The World Health Organization (WHO) regularly gathers information on disease, disability and mortality in order to provide a comprehensive assessment of the health of the world's population.

What is striking about their findings from a US perspective is the difference in diseases and causes of death between low and high income nations.

In a recent study, for example, the leading causes of death in low income nations are listed as lower respiratory infections, diarrheal diseases, HIV/AIDS and heart disease.

By comparison, in high-income nations, the four top categories for causes of death are: heart disease, stroke, lung cancer and Alzheimer (and other dementias).

The 10 leading causes of death by broad income group (2008)

Low-income countriesDeaths in millions% of deaths
Lower respiratory infections1.0511.3%
Diarrhoeal diseases0.768.2%
HIV/AIDS0.727.8%
Ischaemic heart disease0.576.1%
Malaria0.485.2%
Stroke and other cerebrovascular disease0.454.9%
Tuberculosis0.404.3%
Prematurity and low birth weight0.303.2%
Birth asphyxia and birth trauma0.272.9%

Neonatal infections

0.242.6%
High-income countriesDeaths in millions% of deaths
Ischaemic heart disease1.4215.6%
Stroke and other cerebrovascular disease0.798.7%
Trachea, bronchus, lung cancers0.545.9%
Alzheimer and other dementias0.374.1%
Lower respiratory infections0.353.8%
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease0.323.5%
Colon and rectum cancers0.303.3%
Diabetes mellitus0.242.6%
Hypertensive heart disease0.212.3%
Breast cancer0.171.9%

You can find the complete list here.

You may also want to check ou this interactive graphic on the WHO website, where you can explore mortality rates by country across the world.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the leading global causes of disease burden -- not necessarily the same as cause of death -- are infectious disease, particularly lower respiratory infections and diarrheal diseases.