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The top 10 causes of death

Fact sheet
Updated January 2017

Top 10 causes of death worldwide

Of the 56.4 million deaths worldwide in 2015, more than half (54%) were due to the top 10 causes. Ischaemic heart disease and stroke are the world’s biggest killers, accounting for a combined 15 million deaths in 2015. These diseases have remained the leading causes of death globally in the last 15 years.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease claimed 3.2 million lives in 2015, while lung cancer (along with trachea and bronchus cancers) caused 1.7 million deaths. Diabetes killed 1.6 million people in 2015, up from less than 1 million in 2000. Deaths due to dementias more than doubled between 2000 and 2015, making it the 7th leading cause of global deaths in 2015.

Lower respiratory infections remained the most deadly communicable disease, causing 3.2 million deaths worldwide in 2015. The death rate from diarrhoeal diseases almost halved between 2000 and 2015, but still caused 1.4 million deaths in 2015. Similarly, tuberculosis killed fewer people during the same period, but is still among the top 10 causes with a death toll of 1.4 million. HIV/AIDS is no longer among the world’s top 10 causes of death, having killed 1.1 million people in 2015 compared with 1.5 million in 2000.

Road injuries killed 1.3 million people in 2015, about three-quarters (76%) of whom were men and boys.