What is killing us?

This is interactive graph put together by a study in the NEJM is really cool. It shows that the percentage of yearly total deaths arising from heart attacks and cancer has risen and that they have also risen in absolute numbers, I think because population has increased (right?).


As many have noted, the fact that more people die now from cancer and heart attacks (as a percentage of all deaths) is progress because people are living long enough to die from these diseases rathe than childhood killers like the flu, pneumonia, and smallpox.

What I found particularly interesting though was that heart disease was killing the largest percentage of people who were dying in the 60s and 70s. Medical advancement has moved that number down, but it likely would be having an even greater effect if we were able to improve diets at a society wide level and to reduce obesity. In fact, percentage of deaths from heart disease is close to the rates they were at at the turn of the century.

Cancer death percentages grew since the turn of the century, but there is an apparent inflection point around 1995.

Also, future rates might change again. Since kids are obese at a greater rate than ever before, we may witness a bumper crop of heart-disease related deaths in twenty or thirty years.

Of course, as medical technology improves again and we get rid of what ails us now, the future causes of death could be dominated by homicide (as natural causes become almost unheard of). Not saying that’s likely, but it could happen. Also, if the earth becomes really crowded and no one is dying from anything, will there be increased pressure to removed medical care from people and to “allow” them to die?


3 Responses to “What is killing us?”

  1. June 25, 2012 at 1:16 am

    Whoa, homicide is far from the most dominant non-natural cause. Suicide accounts for roughly twice as many deaths, and accidental deaths might be more than either of these. Also, I’ve gotta be your most prolific commenter this week! Cheers

    • 2 questionbeggar
      June 26, 2012 at 1:43 am

      Definitely most prolific. Yea, accidents are on there and are fairly large. In the future though, who knows what types of death we will eliminate. Like, if cars become robotized we might do away with traffic accidents almost completely and if we solve heart attacks and cancer, people might just live forever unless someone ends them. I think your point was different anyway. Did NOT KNOW that suicide was twice the death burden as homicide. Insane. I think almost no one died from suicide before the 20th century.

  2. 3 Judy Wesselhoft
    June 25, 2012 at 1:29 am

    I have started using coconut oil in place of butter. Read about the health benefits of coconut oil!

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