According to the most recent statistics from the World Health Organisation (WHO), the leading cause of death worldwide in 2019 was ischemic heart disease, which is when the heart isn’t getting enough blood and oxygen. It’s also known as coronary heart disease (CHD).
Out of the 55.4 million people who died in 2019 (which represents 7 in 1,000 people out of the entire population at that time), ischemic heart disease accounts for 16% of them.
This was followed by stroke (11%), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (6%), and lower respiratory infections (4%).
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is an inflammatory lung disease that causes obstructed airflow from the lungs. Lower respiratory infections are infections in the lungs or below the voice box, including pneumonia, bronchitis, and tuberculosis.
Here’s a look at the ten leading causes of deaths worldwide in 2019. These account for 55% of all deaths that year.
Leading Causes of Death 2019 designed by Sarah Brown
The leading causes of death change according to income group.
According to the World Bank, the world is divided into four income groups based on gross national income: low ($1,035 or less), lower-middle ($1,036 – $4,045), upper-middle ($4,046 – $12,535) and high ($12,535 or more).
In low income countries, the leading cause of death is neonatal conditions. These are defined as conditions that occur during the first month after birth (up to 28 days). This includes premature birth, neonatal infections, and birth asphyxia. Malaria, tuberculosis, and HIV/AIDS all remain in the top ten. However, HIV/AIDS has seen a significant decrease from 395,000 in 2000 to 161,000 in 2019, which means 59% fewer deaths.
In the lower-middle income countries, the leading cause of death is ischemic heart disease, which has risen from 1 million in 2000 to 3.1 million in 2019. Road injury also makes it to the list in tenth place.
Like the lower-middle income countries, the leading cause of death in higher-middle income countries is ischemic heart disease. There has also been a significant increase in deaths from lung cancer, rising by 411,000 which is double the increase in death of all the other income groups combined. This group also includes stomach cancer on its list, which makes it the only group with this disease as a leading cause of death.
In high income countries, ischemic heart disease remains at the top, yet it’s closely followed by Alzheimer’s diseases and other dementias. This is responsible for the death of 814,000 people in 2019 in the high income group.
For more information on the leading causes of death in 2019, check out the WHO’s factsheet.