- Your likelihood of dying in certain ways can vary hugely depending on where you live, and how rich you are.
- In the Americas, drug-abuse-related deaths nearly tripled in the last two decades.
- Globally, the under-five mortality rate declined 59% between 1990 and 2020.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Following is a transcript of the video.
Narrator: These 49 charts can tell you a lot about how you’re most likely going to die.
It’s worth mentioning that cause of death data has only been thoroughly tracked with global consistency in a significant way for around 40 years, but we’ll touch on that later.
So what do we know for sure?
For one thing, some of the things which preoccupy the public are less of a danger than other things which are at times overlooked.
For example: more than twice as many people die from exposure to extreme temperatures than as a result of extremist terrorism.
Consider also that more people died from gun-related suicides than gun related homicides in the US- and that only 3% of gun related deaths in the US are accidental in nature.
In fact, globally suicide nearly doubled homicide as the underlying cause of death in 2017.
Perhaps not surprising if you are a doctor, but probably to the rest of us, is that heart disease took more lives around the world than Natural disasters, terrorism, fire, drug abuse, drowning, Parkinsons, homicide, malaria, suicide, HIV/AIDS, traffic accidents, liver disease, diabetes, and cancer – combined.
The World Health Organization estimates that over 17.9 million people die every year from heart disease.
And it has been the number one killer in the United States since 1921.
Before then pneumonia and tuberculosis often grappled for the top spot.
But as we developed better treatments for infectious diseases in the early 20th century, people began to live longer- even with the deadly 1918 H1N1 pandemic disrupting the trend the average life expectancy in the US rose from around 47 to 60 years of age by 1930.
This phenomenon-along with many other factors including lifestyle, diet, and changing industries-lead to an increase in cardiovascular disease which has constituted the most significant epidemic of the 20th century.
Although heart disease has been number one for 100 years now, entirely new causes – such as Covid-19 have arrived.
Which brings us to another thing that we know for sure: The way we die is always changing.
Over the last 20 years in particular some major shifts have taken place in the world of medicine. Since the year 2000, Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia climbed from the 20th leading cause up to 7th in 2019,
while HIV/AIDS has fallen from eighth to nineteenth in the same time frame.
And in just the last 24 months a radical shift occurred that no one could have missed. Covid-19 ended the year 2020 as the third leading cause of death in the United States.
Provisional data shows Covid-19 is currently the #1 leading cause in 2021 – displacing heart disease at the top of the list for the first time in a century.
Technology, industry, and lifestyle also play large roles in shaping our deaths.
In the Americas, drug-abuse-related deaths nearly tripled in the last two decades.
Globally, diabetes has overtaken traffic accidents during that time as well.
And one other technology-related cause of death may surprise you; between 2011 and 2017, selfie-related accidents killed five times more people than shark attacks globally.
One strikingly positive change has been in infant mortality – around 1 million fewer infants died in the first months of life in 2019 than in 2000.
Globally, the under-five mortality rate declined 59% between 1990 and 2020.
But lower-income countries still experience far more under-five deaths than wealthier countries.
The risk of dying before the fifth birthday is about 70 times higher for a child born in the highest-mortality country vs the lowest-mortality country.
And this is where we begin to uncover perhaps the thing we can be most certain of.
Where you are born goes a long way in determining how you will die-and how long you will live-largely by virtue of your country’s relative wealth.
The World Bank categorizes countries into four tiers of income groups: Low, lower-middle, upper-middle, and high-income economies.
low and lower-middle-income countries are still hit hard by diseases that wealthier countries have largely eliminated.
For low income countries, diarrhoeal diseases, tuberculosis, and HIV/AIDS all among the leading causes of death, none of which appear in the top ten for countries in the high-income category.
Upper-middle and high-income countries populations by contrast are more likely to die from non-communicable causes more commonly associated with longer life spans.
And the difference in life spans between income groups could not be more clear: In 2019, the leading cause of death in low-income nations was neonatal conditions. That means complications at birth or in infancy that could not be overcome. For high-income countries, neonatal conditions once again placed outside of the top ten.
But the wealth and health gap doesn’t just exist between nations – it is also a clear divide within them.
One study found that on average, the wealthiest American man lives 15 years longer than the poorest, while the wealthiest woman in the US lives 10 years longer.
While in Ghana, a child born to one of the wealthiest families is three times more likely to live beyond five years of age than a child born to one of the poorest families.
So while a quick glance at global statistics might make it seem as though it’s where you are born that decides how long you will live, a deeper look suggests that your wealth has a big part to play.
Which brings us to one final thing we know for sure about how we die, which is that we don’t know everything.
The first notable attempt to classify global causes of death was the International List of Causes of Death, introduced in 1893.
In 1900 only 26 countries used this shared language. As of 1999, the tenth revision is distributed to 194 nations by The World Health Organization.
This means global cause-of-death data dating before 1999 is largely incomplete – and even today’s data has large gaps in availability.
Of the 194 member states who receive the ICD-10 codes from the WHO, only 115 of them had any form of official vital statistics registry that recorded and reported those codes.
The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), estimates that less than half the world’s population has their birth and death recorded in a vital registration system.
The poorest, the homeless, and other marginalized groups around the world are often under reported-leaving the causes and numbers of their deaths unknown.