The GiveWell Blog

Mortality burdens by age group

Using Global Burden of Disease data, I put together a quick look at mortality in lower- and middle-income countries (LMICs) by age group. This is particularly important when seeking interventions that focus on adult mortality, one of the goals from this list.

Burden of mortality in LMICs by age group

All the way on the right of the table is the proportion of deaths that different conditions cause in each age group. (Row 4 gives each age group’s mortality as a proportion of total LMIC mortality.) Yellow coloring means that the condition accounts for 5%-10% of all the mortality in that age group; orange means 10-20%; red, greater than 20%. My notes (chapter and page references are to the Disease Control Priorities report):

  • More than 20% of all LMIC deaths happen before the age of five (also see the pie chart in our developing world summary). Of these deaths, a total of 75% come from one of the following:
    • Perinatal conditions account for more than 20%. Better maternal care, as well as micronutrient supplementation for expectant mothers, could substantially reduce this burden (Chapter 26).
    • Lower respiratory infections (including pneumonia and influenza) account for close to 20%, even though vaccines can be highly effective against these diseases (pg 485-6). Other vaccine-preventable diseases account for an additional 10%.
    • Diarrhea accounts for another 15% of these deaths. Even rudimentary medical care (such as the use of oral rehydration therapy) can prevent such deaths (pg 378).
    • Malaria accounts for another 10%.
  • Mortality between the ages of 5 and 14 is far less common. The biggest causes are accidents (25%), childhood-cluster (generally vaccine-preventable) diseases (15%), respiratory infections (~10%), and HIV/AIDS (7%).
  • People between 15 and 44 – relatively close to the age range I would call “adult” – are at much higher risk than children from tuberculosis (accounting for nearly 10% of deaths in this range), HIV/AIDS (~20%), and maternal mortality (~6% of all deaths in this range; ~15% of female deaths in this range). Cancer (~8%), cardiovascular disease (~10%), and accidents (~15%) are also major causes of death in this age range.
  • People between 45 and 59 face similar mortality risks from tuberculosis and accidents; lower (but still high) mortality risks from HIV/AIDS; and higher mortality risks from cancer, cardiovascular disease, and pulmonary obstructive disease. These three conditions are also the predominant causes of death in people over 60.

We previously performed similar analysis here, with a slightly less detailed breakdown of conditions and more focus on the developing-vs.-developed world contrast.