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Most Common Causes of Death Around the World (US, UK and More)

Most Common Causes of Death

These days anxiety is just another part of life, something that we all accept. We’re all a little scared, a little paranoid. We worry about finances, about careers and relationships, and we worry about death. It’s natural and if you look at some of the stats on common causes of death around the world, it’s justified.

However, the good news, as we shall discover, is that many of the common causes of death are avoidable. There are those that are not, because Father Time apparently treats the stopwatches of our lives like you treat your mouse when it stops working, but there is still some reassurance in all of this morbidity.

The Most Common Causes of Death Around the World

Heart disease is the biggest killer around the world. In fact, it has been estimated that as many as 20% of all global deaths can be attributed to ischemic heart disease. When you add strokes to the mix that figure climbs considerably, because these are the two biggest killers.

To put things into perspective, there are approximately 15 times as many deaths from heart disease/strokes every year than there are from Tuberculosis, which is a major killer in developing nations. There are around 6 or 7 times more deaths from heart disease/strokes than there are from TB and traffic accidents combined, yet both TB and traffic accidents make it onto the list of the top ten causes of death around the world.

Other major killers include respiratory infections and COPD, both of which can be triggered by smoking. The same can be said for lung cancer, which is also on this list. In fact, cancer plays a big role across the board, because if it is not a direct cause of death then it is an indirect one. It can trigger heart disease, strokes and respiratory problems, all of which are in the top 5.

Here is a full list:

  1. Heart Disease
  2. Stroke
  3. Respiratory Infections
  4. COPD
  5. Lung Cancer and Similar Conditions
  6. Diabetes
  7. Alzheimer’s Disease
  8. Diseases Related to Diarrhea
  9. Tuberculosis
  10. Traffic Accident

The Most Common Causes of Death Throughout History

Common Causes of Death

It’s hard to put an exact figure on the common causes of death throughout history, or even to arrive at a fair estimate. What we do know, however, is that war and disease played a bigger role when you go back several hundred years and that tobacco related diseases were very uncommon.

In our How Many People Die guide we looked at the staggering statistic of just how many people pass every day, but this has more to do with a burgeoning population than a decrease in lifespan. The only causes of death that have drastically increased over the course of hundreds of years are those related to road accidents, from an increase in the umber of cars on the road, and those related to excessive smoking and substance abuse, due to the increased availability of both.

In the past, the plague, small pox and even the flu have been big killers, as was poor nutrition and diseases like yellow fever and malaria. These still kill millions, but they are restricted to poorer countries and no longer impact the entire population of the planet.

If you go back just a couple of decades, the top ten list looks pretty much the same, but with some notable changes. Tuberculosis used to be a lot higher and AIDS/HIV was also on the list, but improved treatments have helped to bring those numbers down. Birth complications for the mother and baby were also on the list, but have been replaced by traffic accidents and Alzheimer’s Disease.

Common Causes of Death Related to Wealth

If you split these causes between rich and poor countries, the causes of death change again. Malaria makes it high up the list for those in poverty stricken countries, while respiratory infections accounts for the most deaths overall. As you go through the low, middle and then high income brackets, you start seeing a drop in diseases like TB, malaria and HIV and an increase in liver cancer, cirrhosis, colon cancer, stomach cancer, breast cancer and kidney disease.

There is an argument to be made that the diet and lifestyle of the rich is a major trigger for these conditions, but a lot of it is simply down to the fact that those who die from malaria, AIDS and repository infections do so at a young age. If you take those issues out of the equation then people live longer and therefore become more susceptible to diseases that strike later on in life, such as many forms of cancer.

It could also be a bit of both, as we know that alcoholism and drug addiction is a growing problem in middle to high income families and that these addictions can trigger serious liver, stomach and colon illnesses.

The Most Common Causes of Death In the United States

Common Causes of Death in the US

The biggest cause of death in the United States is heart disease, following a trend that can be found across the globe and in many individual countries. Second on this list is cancer, which further proves the point mentioned above about an increased prevalence of cancer in middle to high income countries.

Respiratory disease and accidents are next, followed by a few usual suspects. The notable inclusions on this list are diabetes, which is the 7th biggest cause of death in the US but can not be found as a major cause in other countries; and suicide, which is the 10th.

There are over 40,000 death from suicide every year in the US, accounting for 1.6% of all of the deaths that occur in this country. That’s a staggering figure and shows the extent of mental health issues in the developed world.

The Most Common Ways to Die In the UK

Heart disease is the biggest cause of death in the UK, as it is everywhere else, but cancer comes a close second. What’s more, heart disease has seen a decline in recent years, whereas cancer is on the increase. This is down to the fact that people are living longer and taking more care of themselves, which means they are avoiding diseases and disorders caused by poor health and succumbing to cancers that develop out of chance.

Respiratory diseases and digestive diseases are also up there, as are mental health issues, which includes suicide. Many also die from road traffic accidents, but while there are more cars on the road, the number of deaths has stagnated at worst and declined at best. Between 1,500 and 2,000 people are said to die from a traffic accident in the UK every year, a number that is close to half of what it was just 15 years ago. This is down to increased awareness and safety procedures (railings, speed bumps, cameras, limits) as well as safer cars, all of which goes against the grain and ensures that deaths are down even though drivers are up.

The Most Common Ways to Die In Australia

We try to cover as many countries as we can here on WTD simply because we have readers from all over. We didn’t forget Australia when doing our Serial Killers from Australia guide, and we haven’t forgotten them here in this equally morbid guide.

The leading cause of death in Australia according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics is heart disease, which will come as no surprise considering what we learned above. Over 150,000 Aussies die every year and their list looks pretty much like the lists in the UK and US.

Death from accidents are not as high as the US figure, because that is inflated by the number of gun homicides every year and Australia has a gun ban. However, cancer and heart disease are the main killers and suicide, drug abuse and alcohol/smoking related deaths are also up there. The top ten, however, are mainly diseases and illnesses of the circulatory, respiratory and digestive system.