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Global threat: 60% of deaths caused by chronic diseases

Three out of every five deaths in 2008 were caused by non-communicable diseases (NCDs) like cancer, stroke, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.

Updated: Apr 28, 2011, 11.47 AM IST
NEW DELHI: Three out of every five deaths in 2008 were caused by non-communicable diseases (NCDs) like cancer, stroke, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. What’s worse, deaths caused by these diseases are expected to increase by 15% in the next decade — from 36 million in 2008 to 44 million in 2020. In 2030, it will cross the 50 million mark.

The region projected to have the greatest total number of NCD deaths in 2020 is South-East Asia — 10.4 million deaths. These stats are bound to bother India since 80% of these deaths occurred and will occur in low and middle income countries, according to the first global status report on NCDs launched on Wednesday by the World Health Organization.

Calling it “an impending disaster for many countries — a disaster for health, for society and national economies” , WHO director general Dr Margaret Chan said “Chronic NCDs deliver a two-punch blow to development. They cause billions of dollars in losses of national income, and they push millions of people below the poverty line, each and every year.”

According to the report, of the 57 million global deaths in 2008, 36 million, or 63%, were due to NCDs. Each year, NCDs are estimated to cause more than 9 million deaths before the age of 60 years. Over 80% of cardiovascular and diabetes deaths, almost 90% of deaths from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and more than two thirds of all cancer deaths occur in lowand middle-income countries.

NCDs also kill at a younger age in countries like India where 29% of NCD deaths occur among people under the age of 60, compared to 13% in high-income countries.

CVDs, cancer, respiratory disease and diabetes account for around 80% of all NCD deaths, and share four common risk factors: tobacco use, physical inactivity, harmful use of alcohol and poor diets.

Dr Ala Alwan, WHO’s assistant director-general for NCDs said “about 30% of people dying from NCDs are aged under 60 years and are in their most productive period of life. These premature deaths are largely preventable.”

“Poverty contributes to NCDs and NCDs contribute to poverty. Around 29 million of the overall deaths in 2008 were due to NCDs in low and middle income countries, dispelling the myth that such conditions are mainly a problem of affluent societies. Without action, the NCD epidemic is projected to kill 52 million people annually by 2030,” Dr Alwan added.


Cardiovascular diseases

Account for most NCD deaths, or 17m people annually, followed by cancer (7.6m), respiratory disease (4.2m), and diabetes (1.3m)


6m die from tobacco use each year. By 2020, this number will increase to 7.5m, accounting for 10% of all deaths. Smoking causes 71% cases of lung cancer, 42% of chronic respiratory disease and 10% of cardiovascular disease

Physical activity

Approximately 3.2m people die each year due to physical inactivity. People who are insufficiently physically active have a 30% increased risk of all-cause mortality


2.5m die each year from use of alcohol, accounting for 3.8% of all deaths in the world. More than half of these deaths occur from NCDs including cancers, cardiovascular disease and liver cirrhosis


Adequate consumption of fruit and vegetables reduces the risk for cardiovascular diseases, stomach cancer and colorectal cancer. Most populations consume much higher levels of salt than recommended by WHO

Blood pressure

Raised blood pressure is estimated to cause 7.5m deaths, about 12.8% of all deaths

Overweight and obesity

At least 2.8m people die each year as a result of being overweight or obese. Risks of heart disease, strokes and diabetes increase steadily with increasing body mass index (BMI)


Raised cholesterol causes 2.6m deaths annually

Cancer-associated infections

2m cancer cases per year, 18% of the global cancer burden, are attributable to a few specific chronic infections

Also Read

These AI tools can predict early death risk due to chronic diseases

Chronic disease, if treatable, is no ground for divorce: High Court

Over 20% of Indians suffer from chronic diseases: Report

85% of employees in private sectors afflicted to life-style, chronic diseases: ASSOCHAM Survey

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