The 10 leading causes of death

NCDs now constitute 7 out of the top 10 leading causes of death worldwide according to WHO’s “Global Health Estimates” (2000-2019).

Foto: DNCDA/S. Volqvartz

Back in year 2000, the corresponding number was 4 out of 10 which is clearly emphasizing the fact that NCDs are representing a larger part of deaths worldwide. The new data covers the period 2000-2019 and estimates how mortality and morbidity has developed through the last two decades. These estimates are clearly showing the need for a much bigger focus on prevention, diagnosis and treatment of NCDs such as cancer, diabetes, lung- and heart diseases in all parts of the world.

Heart diseases continue to be the number one cause of death, but the amount of heart disease-related deaths are significantly higher than previously seen. Heart disease-related deaths back in 2000 was around 2 million, while the amount has risen to a whopping 9 million in 2019. A similar jump can be seen with diabetes where the amount of deaths has risen with approximately 70% globally in the period where the majority of deaths can be counted among men. Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia has also made their way to the list, while many communicable diseases are on a decline globally.

The African region
There has been a global decline in deaths related to communicable diseases, but they continue to pose a significant challenge in low- and middle income countries. This also appears in the WHO rapport that emphasizes how communicable diseases continue to dominate in low-income countries, where 6 out of the top 10 leading causes of death continue to be communicable diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS.

Although communicable diseases continue to pose as a threat on the continent, it is in many ways going in the right direction with these diseases. In 2000, HIV/AIDS was responsible for the highest amount of deaths in Africa. HIV/AIDS-related deaths has since then been more than halved from over 1 million in 2000 to 435,000 in 2019 and is hence now “only” the 4th largest cause of death in the region. Malaria-related deaths is on the same track with a fall from 6.9 million in 2000 to 3.9 million in 2019.

Neonatal conditions and lower respiratory infections has moved up to be the two conditions with the highest death count. Africa is thus far from free of communicable diseases. However, Africa has similarly to the rest of the world also had an explosive rise in NCDs the last two decades, where diabetes-related deaths for example has risen with a total of 48%. NCDs already now constitute an extremely serious threat in Africa, where the risk of dying prematurely from a NCD such as a heart attack, diabetes or cancer is significantly higher than in many other parts of the world.