Global death rate - leading causes 2016

In 2016, the leading causes of death globally included ischemic heart disease, stroke and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). There were 9.43 million deaths from ischemic heart disease at that time and about 5.78 million deaths caused by stroke. In recent history, increases in life expectancy, increases in population and better standards of living have changed the leading causes of death over time.

Non-Communicable Disease Deaths

The number of deaths due to non-communicable diseases has remained relatively stable in recent years. A large majority of non-communicable or chronic disease deaths globally were caused by cardiovascular diseases, followed by cancer. Various lifestyle choices cause or exacerbate many of these chronic diseases. Drinking, smoking and lack of exercise can contribute to higher rates of non-communicable diseases and early death. A 2018 report indicated that the relative risk of death before the age of 65 was 24 times greater among those that smoked and never quit.

Infectious Disease Deaths

Trends indicate that the number of deaths due to infectious diseases have decreased in recent years. However, infectious diseases still disproportionately impact low- and middle-income countries. In 2016, tuberculosis, malaria and HIV/AIDS were still among the leading causes of death in low-income countries. However, the leading causes of death in upper income countries are almost exclusively non-communicable, chronic conditions.

Leading causes of death worldwide in 2016

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Release date

May 2018



Survey time period


Supplementary notes

* Chronic obstructive pilmonary disease.

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Statistics on "Diseases"

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