Worldwide causes of most deaths annually from 1992 to 2021 include Cancer, Cardiovascular diseases, Respiratory diseases, Dementia, Covid-19, Diarrhea, Tuberculosis, and more.
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The prime causes of death at the start of the 20th century differed from those we see today. This may partially be explained by improvements in medical knowledge and scientific discoveries. In 1915, people were dying in large numbers from infections, but by 2015, the most common causes of death were related to cancer, heart conditions, or external causes.

What are the main causes of deaths?

The Global Burden of Disease is a major global study on the causes of death and disease published in the medical journal The Lancet.4 These estimates of the annual number of deaths by cause are shown here. 

This is shown for deaths worldwide. But you can explore data on the annual number of deaths by cause for any country or region using the “change country” toggle.

Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) dominate mortality figures at a global level and account for the majority of deaths in high-income countries.

Deaths from causes such as infectious disease, malnutrition, nutritional deficiencies, neonatal and maternal deaths are common – and in some cases dominant – across low- and middle-income nations. In Kenya, for example, the leading cause of death remains diarrheal diseases. In South Africa and Botswana, the leading cause of death is HIV/AIDS. In high-income countries, however, the share of deaths caused by these is meager.

Using the timeline on the chart, you can also explore how deaths by cause have changed over time.

Death rates related to disease, illness, and other health factors tend to change relatively slowly over time. While death rates may fall or decline from year to year as part of a general trend, dramatic changes in such deaths are typically rare. Natural disasters and terrorism-related deaths are significant exceptions to this rule, as they can vary significantly between countries. This can make the annual comparison of deaths and death rates between health-related factors and volatile events more challenging. Understanding the relative risk of these events can require a longer-term overview of high and low-mortality years. We cover discussion and analysis on this topic in a post here.

We have also visualized the country wise number of deaths by Covid-19 from Jan 2020 – Jan 2021

Number of People vaccinated against Covid-19 data source: Our World in Data

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