What are the main differences between rich and poor countries with respect to causes of death?

Online Q&A
30 April 2012

Q: What are the main differences between rich and poor countries with respect to causes of death?

A: In high-income countries almost 50% of the deaths are among adults 80 and over. The leading causes of death are chronic diseases: cardiovascular disease, chronic obstructive lung disease, cancers, diabetes or dementia. Lung infection remains the only leading infectious cause of death.

In middle-income countries, chronic diseases are the major killers, just as they are in high-income countries. Unlike in high-income countries, however, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and road traffic accidents also are leading causes of death.

In low-income countries around 40% of all deaths are among children under the age of 14. Although cardiovascular diseases together represent the leading cause of death in these countries, infectious diseases (above all HIV/AIDS, lower respiratory infection, tuberculosis, diarrhoeal diseases and malaria) together claim more lives. Complications of pregnancy and childbirth together continue to be a leading cause of death, claiming the lives of both infants and mothers.

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