The top 10 causes of death and disability in 2019

Leading causes of death and disability by WHO Region

African Region

Six of the top 10 leading causes of death in Africa in 2019 are communicable diseases. Africa is the only region in which HIV/AIDS and malaria remain in the top 10.

Encouragingly, Africa has seen HIV/AIDS deaths fall by more than half, dropping from over 1 million in 2000 to 435 000 in 2019. It is now the region’s 4th leading cause of death. In 2000, the disease was responsible for the greatest number of lives lost in Africa. Deaths from malaria are also falling, with 6.7 million in 2000 compared to 3.9 million in 2019. However, recent WHO reports indicate a slow-down or plateauing of progress against infectious diseases.

Region of the Americas

While Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias are on the rise in many parts of the world, in the Americas and Europe they account for one of the most primary causes of deaths, these conditions are now the 3rd leading cause of death in the Americas and Europe.

European Region

The European Region stands out for the relative decline in ischemic heart disease compared with other regions of the world, falling by 15% in deaths and 25% in DALYs, although the disease remained the top cause of deaths and DALYs.

The region has also seen a decline in suicide and road injuries, with both out of the top 10 lists of death and disability. From 2000 to 2019, deaths from suicide in Europe dropped from the 7th leading cause of death to the 17th.

Eastern Mediterranean Region

The greatest decrease among the top 10 causes of death over the period has been for diarrhoeal diseases, for which deaths have fallen by 90 000, or 38%.

South-East Asia Region

In the South-East Asia Region, diarrhoea accounted for the largest number of deaths in 2000. In 2019, it has dropped by 45% to 4th place. Similarly, death and disability from neonatal conditions has declined by more than 50% in the last two decades.

However, deaths from ischaemic heart disease have dramatically increased from 1.2 million in 2000 to 2.1 million in 2019. Similar to the African Region, we also see a rise in road traffic injuries for the South-East Asia Region, which is now among the top 10 leading causes of death and disability.

Western Pacific Region

Unlike many other regions, the leading cause of death and DALYs in the Western Pacific Region is stroke rather than ischaemic heart disease (IHD). However, deaths from IHD in the region have doubled, with more than a million additional fatalities in 2019 (2.3 million) compared to 2000 (1.1 million). 

Three cancers – lung, stomach and colorectal – ranked in the top 10 causes of death in 2019. In particular, deaths for lung and colorectal cancers have increased by 80% and 100%, respectively, since 2000. 

Useful Links:

Link to the related WHO news release:

Link to the related WHO fact sheet:

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