Preventable causes of death
Preventable causes of death are causes of death related to risk factors which could have been avoided. The World Health Organization has traditionally classified death according to the primary type of disease or injury. However, causes of death may also be classified in terms of preventable risk factors—such as smoking, unhealthy diet, sexual behavior, and reckless driving—which contribute to a number of different diseases. Such risk factors are usually not recorded directly on death certificates, although they are acknowledged in medical reports.
It is estimated that of the roughly 150,000 people who die each day across the globe, about two thirds—100,000 per day—die of age-related causes. In industrialized nations the proportion is much higher, reaching 90 percent. Thus, albeit indirectly, biological aging (senescence) is by far the leading cause of death. Whether senescence as a biological process itself can be slowed, halted, or even reversed is a subject of current scientific speculation and research.
Leading causes of preventable death worldwide as of the year 2001, according to researchers working with the Disease Control Priorities Network (DCPN) and the World Health Organization (WHO). (The WHO's 2008 statistics show very similar trends.)
|Cause||Number of deaths resulting (millions per year)|
|Sexually transmitted diseases||3.0|
|Overweight and obesity||2.5|
|Indoor air pollution from solid fuels||1.8|
|Unsafe water and poor sanitation||1.6|
In 2001, on average 29,000 children died of preventable causes each day (that is, about 20 deaths per minute). The authors provide the context:
About 56 million people died in 2001. Of these, 10.6 million were children, 99% of whom lived in low-and-middle-income countries. More than half of child deaths in 2001 were attributable to acute respiratory infections, measles, diarrhea, malaria, and HIV/AIDS.
The three most common preventable causes of death in the population of the United States are smoking, high blood pressure, and being overweight. Pollution from fossil fuel burning kills roughly 200,000/year.
Annual number of deaths and causes
|Cause||Number||Percent of total||Notes|
|Preventable medical errors in hospitals||210,000 to 448,000||23.1%||Estimates vary, significant numbers of preventable deaths also result from errors outside of hospitals.|
|Being overweight and obesity||111,900||4.6%||There was considerable debate about the differences in the numbers of obesity-related diseases. The numbers reported in the referenced article have been found to be the most accurate.|
|Toxic agents including toxins, particulates and radon||55,000||2.3%|
|Preventable colorectal cancers||41,400||1.7%||Colorectal cancer (bowel cancer, colon cancer) caused 51,783 deaths in the US in 2011. About 80 percent of colorectal cancers begin as benign growths, commonly called polyps, which can be easily detected and removed during a colonoscopy. Accordingly, the tabulated figure assumes that 80 percent of the fatal cancers could have been prevented.|
|Firearms deaths||31,940||1.3%||Suicide: 19,766; homicide: 11,101; accidents: 852; unknown: 822.|
|Sexually transmitted infections||20,000||0.8%|
Among children worldwide
|Cause||Number of deaths resulting|
260,000 per year
175,000 per year
96,000 per year
47,000 per year
45,000 per year
- Accidental death – Unnatural death caused by accident
- List of causes of death by rate
- Health effects of tobacco § Mortality
- Preventive healthcare – Prevent and minimize the occurrence of diseases
- Public health – Preventing disease, prolonging life and promoting health through organized efforts and informed choices of society and individuals
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