Top Causes of Death Worldwide: Obesity, Conflict and Mental Illness



A bit morbid for a Sunday topic? Perhaps. But I am curious to see what is in the Global Burden of Disease study.

The report examines the state of the world’s health by estimating average life expectancy as well as the number of deaths, illnesses and injuries from more than 300 causes.

Patterns of global health are changing but a “triad of trouble” including obesity, conflict/terrorism and mental illness is holding back progress around the world.

Read on below for the 9 stats that caught my attention as well as for the link to the full Live Science article.


1. Worldwide, people are living longer.

  • Overall deaths from infectious diseases and preterm birth are decreasing but deaths from heart disease, conflict and terrorism are on the rise.

2. The average global life expectancy is 72.5 years (75.3 years for women and 69.8 years for men.)

  • Japan had the highest life expectancy in 2016, at 83.9 years
  • The Central African Republic had the lowest, at 50.2 years.

3. There were 54.7 million deaths worldwide in 2016.

  • Three-quarters from “noncommunicable diseases,” including heart disease, stroke and cancer.
  • 19% from communicable diseases, maternal and neonatal diseases, and nutritional diseases

4. Ischemic heart disease was the leading cause of death, increasing 19% since 2006.

5.  Diabetes is up 31% since 2006 (related to obesity).

6. The number of deaths among children under age 5 dropped below 5 million for the first time in modern history.

7. Deaths from HIV/AIDS declined by 46% since 2006

8. The number of deaths from conflict and terrorism has risen significantly since 2006

  • Up 143% since 2006 (150,500 deaths in 2016)
  • Largely a result of conflicts in North Africa and the Middle East.

9.  1.1 billion people worldwide have some type of mental health or substance use disorder

  •  Rates of death increased for opioid use, amphetamines and other drug use disorders
  • Particularly prevalent in high-income countries.

The study was coordinated by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) and involved more than 2,500 collaborators from 130 countries and territories.

Link to the full Live Science article here.



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