Death rate has declined globally since 2006

The leading causes of global deaths declined by 30% in just a decade, says a latest study, which is the world’s largest scientific collaboration on population health

By DTE Staff
Published: Tuesday 19 September 2017
Deaths from lower respiratory infections, among other leading illnesses declined by 30% in just a decade. Credit: Philippe Put
Deaths from lower respiratory infections, among other leading illnesses declined by 30% in just a decade. Credit: Philippe Put Deaths from lower respiratory infections, among other leading illnesses declined by 30% in just a decade. Credit: Philippe Put

Since 2006, the death rate from leading diseases such as diarrhea, neonatal preterm birth, malaria, AIDS/HIV, lower respiratory infections declined by 30% or more in just one decade, says the latest Global Burden of Disease (GBD), an annual study which is said to be the most comprehensive effort to quantify health loss across the world.

In what could be a landmark global health achievement, in 2016, for the first time less than 5 million children under the age of five died in an year as opposed to more than double in 1990, 11 million.

Apart from a range of health programmes, the decline is attributed to increased educational levels of mothers, rising per capita incomes, declining levels of fertility, increased vaccination programs, mass distribution of insecticide-treated bed nets, improved water and sanitation.

First published in 1997 in The Lancet, GBD draws from the work of more than 2,500 collaborators from more than 130 countries and territories.

Here a few highlights from the study-

  1. Despite the decline in the global death rate, obesity, conflict and mental illnesses, labeled a triad of problems by the authors, continue to prevent people from living long and healthy lives.
  2. High blood pressure is the leading contributor to unhealthy lives, followed by smoking and high blood sugar.
  3. Although BMI is the fourth largest contributor, the rate of illnesses related to being overweight is rising and affects people from all socio-economic backgrounds.
  4. Deaths from conflict and terrorism more than doubled in the past decade. Recent conflicts in Syria, Yemen, South Sudan and Libya are touted as major health threats
  5. Treatment rate for mental illness and substance use disorder remain low. Even though high income countries have high treatment coverage, number of cases of the most common disorders did not change.
  6. In 2016, the top conditions which made people sick were low back pain, migraine headache, hearing loss, major depressive disorders and iron deficiency anemia.
  7. 1 in 5 deaths was associated with poor diet.
  8. The burden of deaths from non-communicable diseases increased significantly from 58% in 1990 to 72% 2016.
  9. Within the past decade, diabetes became the 9th leading cause of death in low-middle income countries from rank 17.
  10. Tobacco was linked to 7.1 million deaths and, in more than 100 countries, smoking was among the top risk factors for loss of healthy life.
  11. The leading causes of disease burden are ischemic heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, lower respiratory infections, low back and neck pain, diarrhea-related diseases, and road injuries.
  12. Among countries with populations greater than 1 million, the highest life expectancy at birth in 2016 was in Japan for women (86.9 years) and Singapore for men (81.3 years).
  13. Contrary to expectations, Ethiopia, Niger, Portugal, Peru, and the Maldives had higher life expectancies.
  14. Only four of the leading 20 causes of disability in 2016 – stroke, COPD, diabetes, and falls –were also leading causes of death.


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