The Guardian recently published an info graphic called How we die. It shows the causes of death of the 491,348 people who died in died in 2009 in England and Wales. Interestingly amid all the different misconceptions of death that we have, heart disease is the biggest killer, ending 159, 779 lives, followed by cancers and lung disease.
Interestingly accidents are fairly consistent with just under 12,000 deaths and traffic accidents causing 2,224 fatalities.
Guardian and Observer health correspondent Denis Campbell‘s take on it is:
As a society we are understandably concerned with death and our or our loved ones’ risk of dying, and parts of the media routinely warn us about the latest apparent health hazard, involving drugs, machinery, the elements or a new infection. This mortality data is fascinating. They include causes for concern, but also reasons for relief. For example, about 12,000 of us die every year in an accident, and that figure remains stubbornly high. Those data include good news, though: deaths in transport accidents have fallen from 2,968 in 2007 to 2,284 in 2009 – a drop of almost 25%. And while more people are cycling, the number of cyclists killed in a transport accident are falling, as are those after a collision with a car or van.
But this accident deaths category contains bad news, too. Fatalities from falls have risen from 3,318 in 2007 to 3,593 in 2009, probably due to our ageing population and the recent colder winters; ice and snow can be very bad news, especially for older people. Deaths from exposure to smoke, fire and flames have also risen, as have those from accidental poisoning, inadvertent alcohol poisoning and those from intentional self-harm – all of which should make some of us rethink some of our habits.
Infection is one of the great health challenges of our time. New infections emerge fairly regularly and can cause particular problems once they get into hospitals which are harder for medical staff to combat than MRSA and C-difficile, which are more common. But it’s clearly good news that overall deaths from infectious and parasitic disease have fallen significantly recently, from 8,169 in 2007 to 5,570 in 2009. For example, the drop in C-difficile deaths (4,012 to 1,698) reflects the NHS’s determined efforts to tackle hospital-acquired infections. And while it’s reassuring that no one died that year of malaria, and only one each of measles and mumps this data illustrates that chickenpox and shingles, which claimed 19 and 43 lives respectively, for example, are more lethal
The data itself comes from death certificates and records the main cause of death – which is why the influenza numbers are lower than other estimates, for instance. If you get flu, which then lowers your resistance enough for pneumonia to kill you, for instance, pneumonia would be the main cause of death recorded.
Very random but I’m sure there must be a sermon illustration in all of that!