People are dying all the time. Wars are just one of the many causes of death, but certainly one of the more avoidable ones. WHO’s Global Burden of Disease (GBD) study is the key publication containing global health statistics which can help to understand the relevance of geography in relation to the mortality patterns and the prevalence of certain diseases. The most recent update is currently in preparation (set for publication in 2012). Gathering this data is an enormous task: “GBD found that only about a third of all deaths worldwide occurring annually are recorded in government vital registration schemes. India and China have sample registration systems. India has records for particular urban and rural areas, which are assumed to be typical of their urban and rural populations. China’s figures are based on a 10 yearly household survey, where information on deaths in the previous 12 months is asked for. If these are considered to provide information on their whole populations, then around 72% of causes of deaths worldwide are known from death registration data.” (see more about the data on worldmapper).
Data about deaths were some of the most recent additions to the worldmapper website, where we did an extensive mapping of all causes of death and the ages of death. The map series covers all approximately 57 million deaths occuring every year on this planet according to the previous release of the GBD study (meanwhile this figure will have changed slightly, but the proportions that are displayed in the worldmapper cartograms will still show a quite valid picture of the distribution of deaths). These maps are featured in an online lecture by Danny Dorling (see here), and we have now created a map animation on YouTube that shows these maps from different perspectives:
The first part of the following video clip shows the deaths occurring in 5-year age groups, highlighting the unequal distribution of early deaths in the poorer parts of the world, while the most wealthy nations have the largest shares of people dying at a very high age. The second part shows the same maps, but now each age group in its real proportion to the number of deaths occurring in each age group. Striking is the fact, that infant mortality is by far the largest age group of deaths occurring in the world (more than 8 million deaths every year). The numbers then go down to a low in the group of 10-14 year old’s (more than 500,000 dying in that age group), to start rising gradually from the age of 15 again. The second peak is then between 70 and 80 year old’s, with almost 5.5 million dying in both of the five-year cohorts in that range). Less than 100,000 – the lowest number – make it to an age of over 100 before they die. The third part of the clip concentrates on the causes of death, which are categorised by groups of diseases and other causes of death. One interesting fact here is that less than 10% (slightly more than 5 million) are dying from non-disease related deaths (such as accidents, wars, murder, or suicide – figures like war deaths will be the most variable in their distribution over the years, and the 2002 snapshot displayed in these maps can only be an example for the distribution o). By far the most deaths occurring are related to some form of illness or disease. The causes themselves show another striking importance of geographic location, with almost no cause of death being distributed equally among the world’s population. Death and disease are an issue of global inequalities in health, what the following maps strikingly show:
Further reading and more visuals related to the topic can be found on the following pages on this website:
- Child Malnutrition
- Heart disease in the United Kingdom
- Malaria Deaths 2010
- Presentation: Ill-health on the cheap?
- Presentation: Making visible global injustice in health