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List of preventable causes of death

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The World Health Organization has traditionally classified death according to the primary type of disease or injury. However, causes of death may also be classified in terms of preventable risk factors—such as smoking, unhealthy diet, and sexual behavior—which contribute to a number of different diseases. Such risk factors are usually not recorded directly on death certificates.[1]

Leading causes worldwideEdit

Leading causes of preventable death worldwide as of the year 2001.[2]

Cause Number of deaths resulting (millions per year)
Hypertension 7.8
Smoking tobacco 5.0
High cholesterol 3.9
Malnutrition 3.8
Sexually transmitted diseases 3.0
Poor diet 2.8
Overweight and obesity 2.5
Physical inactivity 2.0
Alcohol 1.9
Indoor air pollution from solid fuels 1.8
Unsafe water and poor sanitation 1.6

Leading causes in the United StatesEdit

Annual number of deaths in the United States and causes
Cause Number Percent of total Notes
Smoking tobacco 435,000[3] 18.1%
Being overweight and obesity 111,909[6] 4.6% There was considerable debate about the differences in the numbers of obesity-related diseases. The numbers reported in the referenced article have been found to be the most accurate.[7]
Alcohol 85,000[3] 3.5%
Infectious diseases 75,000[3] 3.1%
Toxic agents including toxins, particulates and radon 55,000[3] 2.3%
Preventable medical errors in hospitals 44,000 to 98,000[8] Estimates vary, significant numbers of preventable deaths also result from errors outside of hospitals.
Traffic collisions 43,000[3] 1.8%
Firearms deaths 29,000[3] 1.2% Suicide: 16,586; homicide: 10,801; Accidents: 776; Legal intervention: 270; Unknown: 230
Sexually transmitted infections 20,000[3] 0.8%
Drug abuse 17,000[3] 0.7%

Leading causes among children worldwideEdit

Various injuries are the leading cause of death in children 9 – 18 years of age. The top five worldwide unintentional injuries in children are as follows:[9]

File:Leading causes of death among children worldwide.svg
Cause Number of deaths resulting
Traffic collision

260,000 per year


175,000 per year


96,000 per year


47,000 per year


45,000 per year

See alsoEdit


  1. (2002)Preventable causes of death in North Carolina. N C Med J 63 (4): 196.
  2. Lopez AD, Mathers CD, Ezzati M, Jamison DT, Murray CJ (May 2006). Global and regional burden of disease and risk factors, 2001: systematic analysis of population health data. Lancet 367 (9524): 1747–57.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 3.8 Mokdad AH, Marks JS, Stroup DF, Gerberding JL (March 2004). Actual causes of death in the United States, 2000. JAMA 291 (10): 1238–45.
  4. Harvard School of Public Health, 2009 press releases
  5. 5.0 5.1 National Vital Statistics Report, Vol. 50, No. 15, September 16, 2002 as compiled at [1]
  6. Flegal, K.M., B.I. Graubard, D.F. Williamson, and M.H. Gail. (2005). Obesity. Journal of the American Medical Association 293 (15): 1861–1867.
  8. (2000) To Err is Human—Building a Safer Health System, 312, Washington, D. C.: National Academies Press.
  9. 9.0 9.1 includeonly>"BBC NEWS | Special Reports | UN raises child accidents alarm", BBC News, December 10, 2008. Retrieved on May 8, 2010.


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