Preventable causes of death
|This article is outdated. (July 2013)|
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, and sexual behavior—which contribute to a number of different diseases. Such risk factors are usually not recorded directly on death certificates.
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%. Thus, albeit indirectly, biological aging (senescence) is by far the leading cause of death. Whether senescence as a biological process itself can be slowed down, 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.||”|
Leading causes of accidental death in the United States by age group.
Leading causes of accidental death in the United States, as percentage of deaths in each group.
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.|
|Smoking tobacco||435,000 ||18.1%|
|Being overweight and obesity||111,909 ||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.|
|Infectious diseases||75,000 ||3.1%|
|Toxic agents including toxins, particulates and radon||55,000 ||2.3%|
|Traffic collisions||43,000 ||1.8%|
|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% 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%|
|Drug abuse||17,000 ||0.7%|
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
- "Preventable causes of death in North Carolina" (PDF). N C Med J 63 (4): 196. 2002. PMID 12970957.
- Aubrey D.N.J, de Grey (2007). "Life Span Extension Research and Public Debate: Societal Considerations" (PDF). Studies in Ethics, Law, and Technology 1 (1, Article 5). doi:10.2202/1941-6008.1011. Retrieved August 7, 2011.
- "SENS Foundation".
- "DCP3". washington.edu.
- Lopez AD, Mathers CD, Ezzati M, Jamison DT, Murray CJ (May 2006). "Global and regional burden of disease and risk factors, 2001: systematic analysis of population health data". Lancet 367 (9524): 1747–57. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(06)68770-9. PMID 16731270.
- Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health (April 27, 2009). "Smoking, high blood pressure and being overweight top three preventable causes of death in the U.S.". The President and Fellows of Harvard College. Retrieved 2015-05-15.
- Mokdad AH, Marks JS, Stroup DF, Gerberding JL (March 2004). "Actual causes of death in the United States, 2000" (PDF). JAMA 291 (10): 1238–45. doi:10.1001/jama.291.10.1238. PMID 15010446.
- National Vital Statistics Report, Vol. 50, No. 15, September 16, 2002 as compiled at 
- "A New, Evidence-based Estimate of Patient Harms Associated with Hospital Care". Journal of Patient Safety. Retrieved 2014-02-21.
- Flegal, K.M., B.I. Graubard, D.F. Williamson, and M.H. Gail. (2005). "Obesity". Journal of the American Medical Association 293 (15): 1861–1867. doi:10.1001/jama.293.15.1861. PMID 15840860.
- "Controversies in Obesity Mortality: A Tale of Two Studies" (PDF). RTI International. Retrieved 2014-02-21.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Colorectal Cancer Statistics". Retrieved January 12, 2015.
- Carol A. Burke and Laura K. Bianchi. "Colorectal Neoplasia". Cleveland Clinic. Retrieved January 12, 2015.
- "Deaths: Preliminary Data for 2011" (PDF). CDC. Retrieved 2014-02-21.
- "BBC NEWS | Special Reports | UN raises child accidents alarm". BBC News. December 10, 2008. Retrieved May 8, 2010.