Triad of top fatal factors
– Fewer children are dying before their fifth birthday and although humans are living longer than ever before, one in five deaths last year were linked to poor diet, researchers said yesterday.
More than 1.6 million people in poor countries died in 2016 from diarrhoea caused by contaminated water and food, while another 2.4 million succumbed to lung infections that mostly could have been prevented or treated.
Another two million mothers and newborns perished due to complications at birth that rudimentary health care could have largely avoided.
Aids and tuberculosis each claimed more than a million lives, while malaria killed over 700 000 people, according to half-a-dozen studies published jointly in The Lancet, a leading medical journal. But trend lines have declined over the last decade for these communicable diseases.
The same cannot be said for viral hepatitis, which killed 1.34 million people in 2016 – 22% more than in 2000, according to the World Health Organisation.
Nearly 55 million people died in 2016, while 129 million were born, leaving a net gain of 74 humans on the planet. Global life expectancy last year was 75.3 years for women and nearly 70 for men. The Japanese averaged 83.9 years, while citizens of the Central African Republic beat the odds if they make it past 50.
Nearly three-quarters of all deaths in 2016 were caused by non-communicable diseases, with heart disease related to restricted blood flow – 9.5 million deaths – the single biggest killer of all. That’s an increase of nearly 20% in a decade.
Similarly, mortality due to diabetes went up by more than 30% over the same period to 1.4 million. Cancers – led by lung cancer – are also on the rise, accounting for nearly nine million deaths in 2016, 17% more than in 2006. Tobacco is blamed for 7.1 million of those fatalities. Combining the two extremes of inadequate nutrition and unhealthy eating in richer communities, poor diet is linked to one in five deaths.
The studies also showed that one in seven people are “living with mental health and substance use disorders”. The global population afflicted with Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease was 2.6 million in 2016, a 40% surge from only a decade earlier. Alcohol and drug use accounted for 320 000 deaths. Deaths attributed to conflict and terrorism exceeded 150 000 in 2016, 140% up from a decade earlier.