30 of the Top Leading Causes of Death in the World

12. Chronic Liver Disease and Cirrhosis Chronic liver disease and cirrhosis are most often associated with late-stage alcoholism, but they are also commonly caused by untreated… Trista - July 13, 2019
Medical News Today

12. Chronic Liver Disease and Cirrhosis

Chronic liver disease and cirrhosis are most often associated with late-stage alcoholism, but they are also commonly caused by untreated hepatitis infections. Your liver plays a crucial role in metabolizing drugs and detoxifying blood from the digestive system, so cirrhosis and other chronic liver diseases will ultimately be fatal if untreated.

To reduce your risk of chronic liver disease, reduce your alcohol intake to low or moderate levels, and seek treatment for alcoholism. Cirrhosis cannot be reversed, but further damage can be stopped. To prevent hepatitis, get all of the available vaccines, and practice safe sex. Also, it would help if you avoided or perform harm reduction for intravenous drug use.

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13. Hypertension

By now you’ve surely noticed that high blood pressure, referred to medically as hypertension, is listed as a leading risk factor for many of the leading causes of death including heart disease, stroke, and kidney disease. High blood pressure is currently estimated to be the leading factor in around 18% of all adult deaths, which amounts to over 9 million dead globally.

The massive number of deaths attributable to hypertension makes it worthy of focus itself, in addition to all of the primary causes of death linked to it. Ninety to ninety-five percent of hypertension cases are attributed to diet, exercise, and other lifestyle factors. So cutting down on salt, stopping tobacco use, and exercising are all vital steps to take to reduce your risks of developing hypertension and the related diseases it contributes to.

14. Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s disease is a long-term neuro-degenerative disease that affects the central nervous system. The symptom most commonly associated with Parkinson’s is the characteristic tremors or trembling. Difficulty walking, rigidity, and movement issues are also common symptoms. The late stages of the disease often include dementia and severe motor impairment.

Parkinson’s itself is not typically considered a fatal disease, but it causes many life-threatening secondary complications, including falling, choking, pneumonia, and more. Parkinson’s has an active genetic component, but a healthy diet and lifestyle along with drinking coffee and tea have been shown to have protective effects.


15. Homicide

Sadly, homicide is a leading cause of death worldwide, especially for younger people. Young men are far more likely to die by murder, but tragically women, transgender, and non-binary people are also often murdered as part of domestic violence. Firearm homicides continue to be a staggeringly large cause of death in the United States, through both mass shootings and single homicides.

There is no way to prevent homicide, but people experiencing domestic violence should be believed and supported. Adequate access to shelters and supportive services does make homicide less likely for those being abused. Keeping firearms unlocked and loaded in gun safes can reduce the rates of homicide as well as suicide.

16. Musculoskeletal Disorders

Musculoskeletal disorders include any disorder that affects that musculoskeletal system, which consists of the bones, tendons, joints, nerves, and more. These disorders are incredibly common and comprise the majority of workplace injuries and disabilities each year. When severe enough, musculoskeletal disorders can also cause death and are a leading cause of death worldwide.

Commonly recognized musculoskeletal disorders include carpal tunnel syndrome, epicondylitis, and tendinitis. Paying close attention to ergonomics and avoiding repetitive motion injury are two key ways to reduce the risk of developing a musculoskeletal disorder. Stretching and proper pre- and post-workout routines can also reduce the risk of complications that arise from exercise.



The great scourge of the 20th century, HIV/AIDS is still killing many people, especially in the Global South, where medicines are not as widely available due to cost. HIV refers to the Human Immunodeficiency Virus, which, if left untreated, will lead to the development of Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome. This condition ultimately leads to death through fatal infections of cancers like Kaposi’s sarcoma.

Thankfully, in much of the world, HIV transmission in medical settings has been eliminated. In such countries, the key to prevention is safe sex practices and avoiding or practicing harm reduction with intravenous drug use. In Global South countries, sexual violence and lack of medical equipment are barriers to stopping HIV’s spread.

Mouths of Mums

18. Neonatal Disorders

Tragically, neonatal, meaning newborn, disorders are still a prevalent cause of death, especially in the Global South, where access to neonatal intensive care units is limited. Neonatal disorders cover a wide range of issues, from congenital disabilities to neonatal strokes, hypoglycemia, and inherited diseases.

Access to quality pre-birth care is a must, especially for black women who suffer disproportionately high rates of neonatal and pregnancy complications. For all experiencing pregnancy, tobacco and alcohol cessation in addition to a healthy diet and exercise can help prevent a wide range of neonatal disorders and difficulties.

Delphine Behavioral Health Group

19. Substance Abuse

While the drug of choice may vary, substance abuse continues to be a major killer throughout the world. In the United States, there is currently an opioid crisis that is claiming thousands of lives every year. Throughout the world, alcoholism continues to be a significant issue that claims millions of lives through accidents, overdose, domestic violence, cirrhosis, other liver diseases, and more.

To reduce the risk of death from substance abuse, harm reduction should be put into practice to reduce the risk of overdose, sepsis, HIV/AIDS, and other complications of intravenous drug use. Substance abuse treatment also needs to be more widely available and affordable.

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20. Maternal Disorders

Pregnancy remains quite dangerous for people with uteri, especially in the Global South but also even in places like the United States, especially for black people with uteri who are far more likely to pass away from complications of pregnancy than their white counterparts. Maternal disorders include issues like pre-eclampsia, strokes, seizures, and hemorrhages.

Access to adequate prenatal care is the most important of reducing maternal disorders. Those who are pregnant can stop alcohol and tobacco use to reduce the risk of issues like pre-eclampsia, in addition to a healthy diet, limited pregnancy weight gain, and exercise.

21. Infectious Disease

Infectious diseases, as a broad category, include all of those diseases transmissible between humans and from insect and animal reservoirs to humans. While we often may feel like we have primarily eradicated infectious diseases other than the common cold and flu, in reality, even ancient diseases like the Bubonic Plague kill people every year.

While infectious diseases are more likely to kill people in the Global South due to the indigenous disease vectors, the impacts of climate change and colonialism, and the lack of adequate medical facilities, all of the world’s population is subject to infectious disease. Keeping up with vaccines and practicing good hand-washing hygiene can help mitigate the risk.


22. SIDS

There are few types of deaths more tragic than SIDS, or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. With SIDS, seemingly healthy babies die suddenly and unexpectedly. While back sleeping and removing blankets and pillows from cribs seem to reduce the risk, the mechanisms of the disease are still not entirely understood.

To reduce the risk, always remember to put your baby “back” to sleep, meaning lying on their back. Do not leave bottles, blankets, pillows, or stuffed animals in the crib. Not using tobacco during and after pregnancy seems to have a protective effect against SIDS as well.

Medical News Today

23. Nutritional Deficiencies

Those of us in the United States of America often deal with the health effects of overeating combined with a sedentary lifestyle, but in many parts of the Global South hunger and malnutrition are still severe problems that kill countless people, especially children, every year. Starvation alone kills many, and nutritional deficiency leads to anemia and many other health issues that can lead to death.

While none of us possess the ability to stop worldwide famine ourselves, supporting organizations like Heifer International that help build local food security. Starting your own backyard gardens to support local food pantries are steps we can all take to help prevent starvation and malnutrition deaths.

Medical News Today

24. Malaria

Despite the numerous efforts to eradicate it over the years, many of which have caused irreparable climatological damage, the malaria mosquito continues to wreak havoc throughout much of the Global South.

If you live in a region where malaria is endemic or plan on traveling in one, be prepared to pack and religious apply heavy-duty insect repellents. Sleeping nets are also a must at night, especially in areas with houses that aren’t well sealed or insulated. Mefloquine, which is related to quinine, is recommended as prophylaxis before, during, and after travel to areas in which malaria is endemic.


25. Diarrheal Disease

While the days of cholera may seem long past to many of us, cholera is still a reality in many parts of the Global South. Contaminated water is the vector for cholera, and many areas in the Global South still struggle to access clean water, an issue that will only worsen as climate change threatens our world’s reservoirs. Other causes of diarrheal disease death include viruses like Norwalk and cytomegalovirus as well as parasitic infections.

If traveling to an area where cholera and other waterborne infections are endemic, bring your own supply of bottled water and water purifying equipment or chemicals. You should always boil municipal water before consuming it. For those who live in such areas, it is crucial that we all continue to advocate for all humans’ right to clean, potable water.

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26. Measles

The year is 2019 and Measles is making a triumphant comeback across Europe and the United States. While this wasn’t a sentence anyone expected to have to write in 2019, it is the unfortunate reality thrust upon us by those who refuse immunizations and threaten the concept of herd immunity that protects people who are unable to get vaccines and those for whom they are ineffective.

There is a proven, safe, and effective way to present the Measles infection, which is to vaccinate yourself and your children. Measles is an incredibly contagious disease that, when reintroduced to a population, will spread rapidly due to its highly infectious aerosolized droplet transmission route. Not only can Measles cause death, but it can also cause permanent blindness and devastating secondary effects like subacute sclerosing panencephalitis or SSPE.

Honolulu Family

27. Childhood Diseases

In addition to Measles, many other childhood diseases like diphtheria, pertussis (commonly known as whooping cough) and others are making a comeback thanks to the drop-off in vaccination rates in the western world. In the Global South, many childhood diseases were never adequately eradicated or controlled, and many continue to kill children who lack access to adequate medical care routinely.

Continuing standard immunizations for all children in order to preserve herd immunity is the single most effective choice that can be made, worldwide, to prevent the resurgence and continued existence of devastating childhood diseases that are entirely preventable.

Neurology Advisor

28. Tuberculosis

This disease is long reviled and feared, and even occasionally trendy — looking at you, Victorian England. Tuberculosis has been destroying the lungs and leading to premature death for many centuries. Some also speculate that this disease, in part, gave rise to the common myths around vampires. What is far scarier than vampires, however, is the fact that some strains of tuberculosis are now showing signs of antibiotic resistance, which could make the old-timey disease a brand new public health menace.

Thankfully, tuberculosis is relatively difficult to spread. If you are diagnosed, take all of your medicines for the entire length of time required by your doctor. You should wear a mask, wash your hands frequently, and avoid prolonged contact with immuno-suppressed people, the elderly, and young children.


29. Drowning

The vast majority of leading causes of death on this list are caused by lifestyle choices such as smoking or substance use, a poor diet, a sedentary lifestyle, or genetic factors. However, drowning is another tragically avoidable cause of death that claims a surprisingly large number of lives around the world each year.

Giving children swimming lessons and water safety courses is a great way to instill the fundamentals of water safety at a young age. For adults, always wear life preservers when on the water. Don’t drink and boat or swim. If swimming in an area where riptides are present, make sure you have completed training on how to escape that dangerous form of current.


30. Meningitis

Meningitis refers, broadly, to an inflammation of the meninges, which comprise the protective membrane that covers the brain and spinal cord. Meningitis can be caused by numerous infectious agents, including bacteria and viruses. The most common form varies by region, but all areas of the world can experience Meningitis infections.

One of the easiest ways to prevent an infection is through using all of the available immunizations, including mumps, meningococcal, and Hib vaccines. College students in the US are typically encouraged to receive the meningococcal vaccine due to the close living quarters.