The Leading Causes of Death in the World

More than 7,000 people died from natural disasters in 2016, and 34,676 died from terrorism, but these are not leading causes of death on the planet. Causes of death vary significantly by country and income levels across the world. Even so, as living standards improve, life expectancy is increasing and the most common causes of death have changed over time. In 1900, a leading cause of death was pneumonia and influenza, these and other communicable diseases fall farther down the list today.

Based on the report Causes of Death by Hannah Ritchie, a researcher at Our World in Data and Max Roser, the site's founder, these are the leading causes of death in the world. Data is from 2016.

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1. Cardiovascular Diseases
1. Cardiovascular Diseases

1. Cardiovascular Diseases

Number of deaths: 17.65 million

Share of deaths: 32.26%

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2. Cancers
2. Cancers

2. Cancers

Number of deaths: 8.93 million

Share of deaths: 16.32%

Above, runners raise money for cancer in Sussex, England in 2017.

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3. Respiratory Disease
3. Respiratory Disease

3. Respiratory Disease

Number of deaths: 3.54 million

Share of deaths: 6.48%

Respiratory diseases include deaths from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, a disease of the lungs due to inhalation of dust.

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4. Diabetes, Blood and Endocrine Disease
4. Diabetes, Blood and Endocrine Disease

4. Diabetes, Blood and Endocrine Disease

Number of deaths: 3.19 million

Share of deaths: 5.83%

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5. Dementia
5. Dementia

5. Dementia

Number of deaths: 2.38 million

Share of deaths: 4.36%

These are the deaths attributed to Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia.

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6. Lower Respiratory Infections
6. Lower Respiratory Infections

6. Lower Respiratory Infections

Number of deaths: 2.38 million

Share of deaths: 4.35%

Acute lower respiratory infections include pneumonia.

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7. Neonatal Deaths
7. Neonatal Deaths

7. Neonatal Deaths

Number of deaths: 1.73 million

Share of deaths: 3.16%

Neonatal death is when a baby dies in the first 28 days after birth.

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8. Diarrheal Diseases
8. Diarrheal Diseases

8. Diarrheal Diseases

Number of deaths: 1.66 million

Share of deaths: 3.03%

Diarrheal disease remains one of the largest causes of death in children, and in some countries, such as Kenya, it is the top mortality cause, according to the report. Diarrheal diseases are typically a symptom of infections within the intestinal tract and is contracted through poor hygiene, sanitation, unsafe water sources, or contaminated food. Most deaths result from dehydration. Diarrheal deaths disproportionately affect the young and the old: 42% of global deaths were from those aged 70 years or older, with 27% under 5 years old, the report says.

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9. Road Incidents
9. Road Incidents

9. Road Incidents

Number of deaths: 1.34 million

Share of deaths: 2.45%

This includes deaths from all road vehicles, including drivers, passengers, pedestrians and cyclists.

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10. Liver Disease
10. Liver Disease

10. Liver Disease

Number of deaths: 1.26 million

Share of deaths: 2.3%

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11. Tuberculosis
11. Tuberculosis

11. Tuberculosis

Number of deaths: 1.21 million

Share of deaths: 2.22%

The World Health Organization estimates that up to one-quarter of the global population has latent TB, meaning they have been infected with the disease but are not ill with the disease (although this does not inhibit it from becoming active in the future). Above, children in Malaysia are vaccinated for TB.

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12. Kidney Disease
12. Kidney Disease

12. Kidney Disease

Number of deaths: 1.19 million

Share of deaths: 2.17%

Above, people undergo hemodialysis.

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13. Digestive Disease
13. Digestive Disease

13. Digestive Disease

Number of deaths: 1.09 million

Share of deaths: 2%

Digestive diseases refers to all deaths resultant from ulcer diseases, pancreatitis, gallbladder, bowel disease, gastritis and intestinal diseases. Above, people go through a ride at the Shanghai Science and Technology Museum that shows how the digestive system works.

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14. HIV/AIDS
14. HIV/AIDS

14. HIV/AIDS

Number of deaths: 1.03 million

Share of deaths: 1.89%

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15. Suicide
15. Suicide

15. Suicide

Number of deaths: 817,148

Share of deaths: 1.49%

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16. Malaria
16. Malaria

16. Malaria

Number of deaths: 719,551

Share of deaths: 1.32%

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17. Homicide
17. Homicide

17. Homicide

Number of deaths: 390,794

Share of deaths: 0.71%

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18. Nutritional Deficiencies
18. Nutritional Deficiencies

18. Nutritional Deficiencies

Number of deaths: 368,107

Share of deaths: 0.67%

Above, children wait for food from a relief team in Lahore, Pakistan in 2012.

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19. Meningitis
19. Meningitis

19. Meningitis

Number of deaths: 318,400

Share of deaths: 0.58%

Meningitis is an inflammation of the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord, usually caused by bacterial or viral infection. Injuries, cancer, certain drugs, and other types of infections also can cause meningitis, according to the CDC.

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20. Protein-Energy Malnutrition
20. Protein-Energy Malnutrition

20. Protein-Energy Malnutrition

Number of deaths: 308,394

Share of deaths: 0.56%

Protein-energy malnutrition refers to energy or protein deficiency caused by insufficient food intake. It can also be exacerbated by infection or disease. Children under 5 are disproportionately affected, accounting for 54% of global deaths the report says.

Above, a monument to the Irish famine in Dublin, Ireland.

Photo: Giannis Papanikos / Shutterstock

21. Drowning
21. Drowning

21. Drowning

Number of deaths: 302,932

Share of deaths: 0.55%

For every country in the world, drowning is among the top 10 killers for children

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22. Maternal Deaths
22. Maternal Deaths

22. Maternal Deaths

Number of deaths: 230,615

Share of deaths: 0.42%

Pregnant women wait for an ultrasound scan at a hospital in Uganda.

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23. Parkinson's Disease
23. Parkinson's Disease

23. Parkinson's Disease

Number of deaths: 211,296

Share of deaths: 0.39%

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24. Alcohol Disorders
24. Alcohol Disorders

24. Alcohol Disorders

Number of deaths: 173,893

Share of deaths: 0.32%

This refers to death as a direct result of alcohol dependence and alcohol abuse.

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25. Intestinal Infectious Diseases
25. Intestinal Infectious Diseases

25. Intestinal Infectious Diseases

Number of deaths: 155,449

Share of deaths: 0.28%

Above, a man takes anti-cholera medication in South Sudan.

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26. Drug Disorder
26. Drug Disorder

26. Drug Disorder

Number of deaths: 143,775

Share of deaths: 0.26%

This refers to direct death as a result of drug dependence and drug abuse.

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27. Hepatitis
27. Hepatitis

27. Hepatitis

Number of deaths: 134,045

Share of deaths: 0.25%

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28. Fire
28. Fire

28. Fire

Number of deaths: 132,084

Share of deaths: 0.24%

Photo: Krista Kennell / Shutterstock

29. Conflict
29. Conflict

29. Conflict

Number of deaths: 115,782

Share of deaths: 0.21%

Pictured is the city of Homs, Syria, damaged in the country's civil war. The United Nations estimated that more than 400,000 people died in the war.

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30. Heat-Related Deaths
30. Heat-Related Deaths

30. Heat-Related Deaths (Hot or Cold Exposure)

Number of deaths: 55,596

Share of deaths: 0.1%

Photo: Shutterstock

Causes of Death, Our World in Data, CC BY 4.0

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