Top 15 Causes of Death

It’s sobering to see what’s going on across the board with our health. Many might assume that heart disease and cancer hover at the top of what’s killing us in this country, and they’d be correct, but some of the other causes that make the top fifteen are somewhat surprising. The data used for this list was complied from records of deaths, which were received from state vital statistics offices and processed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS).

What’s so surprising is what a role tobacco plays in this list. According to the World Health Organization, tobacco use is a major cause of many of the world’s top killer diseases – including cardiovascular disease, chronic obstructive lung disease and lung cancer. In total, tobacco use is responsible for the death of almost one in 10 adults worldwide. Smoking is often the hidden cause of the disease recorded as responsible for death.

This list represents deaths of all ages. When looking at lists broken down by age, the causes differ: in general, youth is more vulnerable to violent death (accidents and homicide); middle age is more vulnerable to disease conditions affecting high risk individuals (cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes, etc.); and old age is more vulnerable to diseases related to general debility (infection, dementia, chronic disease and accidental falls).

The final results for 2007 were just published, the causes here are the preliminary numbers for deaths in the United States for 2009. The preliminary number of deaths for the year was 2,436,68–here is how the numbers are represented:

15. Assault (homicide): 16,591

14. Parkinson’s disease: 20,552

13. Essential hypertension and hypertensive renal disease (high blood pressure, kidney failure caused by high blood pressure): 25,651

12. Chronic liver disease and cirrhosis: 30, 444

11. Septicemia (systemic infection): 35,587

10. Intentional self-harm (suicide): 36,547

9. Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome and nephrosis (kidney disease): 48,714

8. Influenza and pneumonia: 53,582

7. Diabetes mellitus (diabetes): 68,504

6. Alzheimer’s disease: 78,889

5. Accidents (unintentional injuries): 117,176

4. Cerebrovascular diseases (stroke): 128,603

3. Chronic lower respiratory diseases (emphysema, chronic bronchitis): 137,082

2. Malignant neoplasms (cancer): 568,668

1. Diseases of heart (mainly heart attack): 598,607

Next: How the causes compare with other countries

The following two lists come form the World Health Organization, and show how the causes of death differ between low-and middle-income countries, and our wealthier nation.

Low-income countries
1. Lower respiratory infections
2. Diarrhoeal diseases
4. Ischaemic heart disease
5. Malaria
6. Stroke and other cerebrovascular disease
7. Tuberculosis
8. Prematurity and low birth weight
9. Birth asphyxia and birth trauma
10. Neonatal infections

Middle-income countries
1. Ischaemic heart disease
2. Stroke and other cerebrovascular disease
3. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
4. Lower respiratory infections
5. Diarrhoeal diseases
7. Road traffic accidents
8. Tuberculosis
9. Diabetes mellitus
10. Hypertensive heart disease

See more details about the CDC’s report for 2009 here

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Elena T.
Elena P3 years ago

Thank you :)

Peter A.
Past Member 4 years ago


Shanti S.
S S4 years ago

Thank you.

Carol B.
Carol B5 years ago

sobering article

Knut Franckenstein
Knut F5 years ago



Darla G.
Darla G.5 years ago

interesting, and we need to remember the intrinsic causes of a lot of these issues. I, for one, know 7 young men who committed suicide over the past 3 years and each of them was a drug addict. Interesting that suicide is a #10 cause but addiction isnt on the list. do we need to categorize things better to really see what is going on? I think so.

Nancy Gregg
Nancy G5 years ago

not fun to read

Tom Sullivan
Tom C S5 years ago

it was suppose to say let me see smoke or ?

Tom Sullivan
Tom C S5 years ago

Let me smoke I know it is not good, but then look at what the goverment does to us, along with big phrama, man is killing himself off with all the garbage the Corp. america is giving us.

Ida J.
Ida J5 years ago