The top 10 causes of death and disability in 2019

Recently the World Health Organization (WHO) released the top 10 causes of death and disability. This article will present the highlights of the release.

Key Messages:

Noncommunicable diseases have become more prominent with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias as well as diabetes entering the top 10 in 2019, whereas communicable diseases are on the decline with both HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis dropping out of the top 10.

Ischaemic heart disease was the top cause of death in both 2000 and 2019, and is now killing more people than ever before. Ischaemic heart disease caused the most deaths and was responsible for 16% of total deaths. Since 2000, it has seen the largest increase in deaths, rising by more than 2 million to nearly 9 million deaths in 2019.

Note: M= millions

Lower respiratory infections were responsible for the most deaths in the communicable disease category in both 2000 and 2019. Lower respiratory infections accounted for the highest number of deaths in the communicable disease category. Lower respiratory infections were the fourth leading cause of death in 2019. However, the number of deaths decreased from 3.0 million in 2000, to 2.6 million in 2019. 

HIV/AIDS dropped from the 8th leading cause of death in 2000 to the 19th in 2019, reflecting the success of timely diagnosis and effective treatment and control. 

Tuberculosis has also dropped from the 7th place in 2000 to 13th in 2019, with a 30% reduction in global deaths. Yet it remains among the top 10 causes of death in the African and South-East Asia regions and Africa has seen a slight increase in deaths since 2000 followed by decline that only started in recent years. 

Note: M= millions

Among the top 10 causes of deaths in 2000, deaths from neonatal conditions and diarrhoeal diseases have seen the greatest global decrease in absolute number, each falling by more than 1 million since 2000.

Progress in preventing and treating communicable diseases (especially those that tend to kill younger people) has seen them decline relative to noncommunicable diseases and injuries. This progress has led to an ageing global population – a trend that will continue as more people live longer. At the global level, 7 of the top 10 causes of death in 2019 are noncommunicable diseases. This is an increase from 4 of the top 10 causes in 2000.


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