Good to have some perspective on what is killing us. Also, pretty interesting to see how causes of death change according to country, income level, age and sex.
All data is from 2017. Numbers are actual total numbers. The measures available below are death – total number of casualties, and DALYs – disability adjusted life years lost which are calculated by adding years lived with disability (YLLs) & years lived with disability (YLDs), so basically healthy years lost due to the particular cause.
Many of the causes are clickable so you can see the breakdowns of each cause category.
Unfortunately we do not have equally good data for older periods, but see a similar - although rougher - break down of major causes of death for the US in 1900.
*Source: The New England Journal of Medicine. Downloaded 06/11/2018.
Causes of death differ wildly according to geography - partly because they differ wildly according to income level as we saw above. Have a look for instance at the big killers: cardiovascular disease and cancer. And compare those to something like HIV, maternal and neonatal disorders, or nutritional deficiencies.
Below you can see risks that have been identified as causes of conditions leading to death or disability. All these risks are completely preventable. Note that risks overlap significantly and that there is good amount of casualties / incidents that have not been associated with any risks. So minimising the associated risks cannot eliminate the possibility of a disease / condition occurring, but it definitely helps.