First, a quick visualization to get a perspective of where people live, and how many people get born and die each year. Each line represents 10 million people.
More people die each year (57m) than the entire populations of Australia and New Zealand (43m), and more than twice that many are being born each year (140m). The populations of Europe and Latin America are relatively similar (747m and 653m), and each of which is about twice the population of North America (369m), and half the population of Africa (1.3b). Asia (4.6b) makes up more than half of the total population of Earth (7.8b).
*Source: United Nations. Downloaded 21/02/2020.
Apart from the total populations of each country and region, it's interesting to note a few more factors. Population density, which measures how many people live per square kilometre, so basically, how crowded is it there. Fertility rate which indicates how many children on average are born per woman. A number of around 2 would indicate a stable population, with a larger number signalling a population increase and vice versa. Life expectancy is the number of years someone can expect to live being born on the given year and place. Median age is an indicator of how old a population is, with smaller numbers indicating younger populations and vice versa. Lastly, mortality percentage is the percentage of the total population that dies each year.
It’s hopeful that there seems to be an optimistic trend in all parameters, with life expectancy stealing the show. Despite the fact that fertility rates have been dropping in most of the world, the world’s population has soared mostly due to the impressive increase in life expectancy. We are getting more simply by getting older. And with so low median ages and high fertility rates, we can expect much more growth coming in the following years from Africa.
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.
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.