According to results published in the British journal The Lancet, scientists concluded that a range of 79 health dangers contributed to 30.8 million deaths in 2013 – 5.7 million more than in 1990, even when population growth and ageing were taken into account.
“To put it in plain English, we are behaving badly,” study co-author Ali Mokdad of the University of Washington said. “I mean, we know very well that smoking kills and that blood pressure is another killer,” he said.
“Nobody risks not changing the oil in their car, but nobody pays the same attention to their own body.”
Since 1990, the most dangerous factors have changed significantly, shifting from causes rooted in privation to those stemming from excess. High blood pressure – which is easily diagnosed and readily treated – was the top risk in 2013, contributing to 10.4 million deaths in the 188 countries studied.
After blood pressure, the top four risk factors driving the 22.7% jump in deaths were smoking, a person’s height and weight, high blood sugar levels and a diet high in sodium. The results were based on a wide range of data, including World Health Organisation and World Bank reports. Since 1990, the most dangerous factors have changed significantly, shifting from causes rooted in privation to those stemming from these kinds of excess.
The deadliest group of factors were all tied to how people eat. Diets high in red meat and sugary drinks and low in fruits and vegetables accounted for 21% of deaths in 2013. At the same time, child undernutrition and unsafe water, for example, were no longer among the top 10 deadliest risks.
However, a lack of sufficient food still contributed to the deaths of 1.3 million children in 2013.