Latest estimates for global causes of death and disease

Obesity appears to be “a side-effect of development”

Obesity appears to be “a side-effect of development”Shutterstock Rex Features

"In absolute terms, the largest number of under-5 deaths nationally in 2016 occurred in India at 0·9 million (0·8 million to 0·9 million) followed by Nigeria (0·7 million, 0·6 million to 0·9 million) and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (0·3 million, 0·1 million to 0·4 million)", the analysis revealed. The data show deaths among children aged below five decreased globally to fewer than 5 million in 2016 for the first time, down from 16.4 million in 1970. Diabetes is also responsible for 1.43 million deaths, a 31 percent increase since 2006. Ethiopia's life expectancy is five years longer than would be expected; in Peru and Niger, it is about six years longer.

The report found that today, the average global life expectancy is 72.5 years (75.3 years for women and 69.8 years for men.) That's up from an average life expectancy of 65.1 years in 1990 and 58.4 years in 1970, the report said. However, with the increased life expectancy, the years lived with ill health or disability have also increased. The study also revealed that the proportion of life spent being ill is higher in poor countries than in wealthy ones. In fact, poor diet alone is a risk factor for one in five global deaths, according to the research. It was the leading cause of premature deaths apart from in low income regions.

Noncommunicable disease was behind almost three out of every four deaths globally in 2016.

Major depression ranked among the top ten causes of ill health in all but four of the 195 countries and territories covered.

About 19 percent of deaths were from communicable diseases, maternal diseases, neonatal diseases and nutritional diseases.

More than 1.6 million people in poor countries died in 2016 from diarrhoea caused by contaminated water and food, while another 2.4 million succumbed to lung infections that mostly could have been prevented or treated. Since 2006, the number of deaths from conflict and terrorism has risen significantly, reaching 150500 in 2016 (143% increase since 2006), largely as a result of conflicts in North Africa and the Middle East.

Diets that were low in grains, fruit, nuts and seeds, fish oil and high in salt were the most common risk factors in diet.

While significant progress has been made since 2006, 1.03 million people died from HIV/AIDS (45.8% decrease since 2006), 719500 died from malaria (25.9% decrease), and 1.21 million died from tuberculosis (20.9% decrease) in 2016. In addition to diet, other leading risk factors in worldwide deaths are smoking and high blood pressure.

The same can not be said for viral hepatitis, which killed 1.34 million people in 2016 - 22% more than in 2000, according to the World Health Organisation.

Because of the strong links between these risks, the researchers explained that the true driver is likely to be diet and BMI, exacerbated by blood glucose levels and high blood pressure.

Professor Christopher Murray, director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington, which led the study, said: "Death is a powerful motivator, both for individuals and for countries, to address diseases that have been killing us at high rates".

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