Chronic diseases and health promotion

Part Two. The urgent need for action

Chapter One. Chronic diseases: causes and health impact

The global situation


Approximately 58 million deaths are expected to occur in 2005. It is projected that 35 million, or 60%, of all deaths will be caused by chronic diseases. To put these numbers into perspective, around 17 million deaths, approximately 30%, will be due to infectious diseases (including HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria), maternal and perinatal conditions, and nutritional deficiencies combined. An additional 5 million deaths, 9%, of the total - are expected to result from violence and injuries.

It is often assumed that chronic disease deaths are restricted to older people, but this is not the case. Approximately 16 million chronic disease deaths occur each year in people under 70 years of age. Moreover, chronic disease deaths occur at much earlier ages in low and middle income countries than in high income countries.

Cardiovascular diseases (mainly heart disease and stroke) are the leading cause of death, responsible for 30% of all deaths. Cancer and chronic respiratory diseases are the other leading causes of chronic disease deaths. The contribution of diabetes is underestimated because although people may live for years with diabetes, their deaths are usually recorded as being caused by heart disease or kidney failure.

The number and rates of projected chronic disease deaths in males and females for four age groups are shown in the below table. The number of deaths is similar in males and females. The death rates for all chronic diseases rise with increasing age but
almost 45% of chronic disease deaths occur prematurely, under
the age of 70 years.