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Data InsightsCOVID-19 was the third largest cause of death in 2021
June 24, 2024Fiona Spooner

COVID-19 was the third largest cause of death in 2021


This image is a horizontal bar chart titled "Global causes of death," sourced from IHME, Global Burden of Disease (2024). It lists various causes of death worldwide, with each cause represented by a horizontal bar indicating the number of deaths in millions. The causes are ranked from highest to lowest as follows:

Cardiovascular diseases: 19.41 million
Cancers: 9.89 million
COVID-19: 7.89 million (highlighted in orange)
Respiratory diseases: 4.41 million
Digestive diseases: 2.52 million
Lower respiratory infections: 2.18 million
Dementia: 1.95 million
Neonatal disorders: 1.83 million
Diabetes: 1.66 million
Kidney diseases: 1.53 million
Liver diseases: 1.43 million
Road injuries: 1.2 million
Diarrheal diseases: 1.17 million
Tuberculosis: 1.16 million
Malaria: 748,131
Suicide: 746,379
HIV/AIDS: 718,079
The chart uses a color code where most bars are in blue, except for COVID-19, which is in orange. The source and licensing information is at the bottom right corner of the image.

According to the latest Global Burden of Disease Study — published last month by the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) — COVID-19 was the third leading cause of death in 2021, after cardiovascular diseases and cancer.

These estimates suggest that COVID-19 was responsible for around eight million deaths in 2021. In many countries across South America and sub-Saharan Africa, the IHME reports that it was the leading cause of death.

Global improvements in healthcare have led to a steady reduction in the death rate from infectious diseases in recent decades, but the COVID-19 pandemic has reversed this trend.

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