Dec 10, 2020 - Health

WHO: People are living longer, but chronic disease is killing more

Adapted from World Health Organization; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Almost 75% of the world's deaths last year were from non-communicable diseases like heart disease, diabetes and cancer, according to the World Health Organization.

Why it matters: Worldwide life expectancy is now up to an average of 73 years — six years longer than it was in 2000. But chronic, and in some cases preventable, disease is also taking a bigger toll than it was 20 years ago.

By the numbers: Seven of the the globe's 10 leading causes of death in 2019 were from noncommunicable diseases — up from four in 2000.

  • Heart disease, which has been the world's leading cause of death for the last 20 years, is killing more people than ever before, representing 16% of the world's total deaths last year.
  • Deaths from diabetes increased by 70% globally since 2000, with an 80% rise in deaths among men.
  • Lower respiratory infections are still the world’s most deadly communicable disease, but the number of deaths has gone down by almost half a million lives since 2000.

Yes, but: Many communicable diseases, including HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and lower respiratory infections, remain leading causes of death in low- and lower-middle income countries.

What to watch: COVID-19 will likely make 2020's top 10, WHO officials said, as the global death toll reached the 1.5 million mark on Dec. 3.

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