I was reading a blog recently (I wish I could find it so I can give credit to the author) whose writer made an interesting point regarding the leading causes of death in 1900 as compared to 2009.
He noted that while most deaths in 1900 were caused by diseases that people no longer kill people due to antibiotic therapy, rehydration therapy and improved medical practice, most of the deaths today are due to our own behavior.
Consider the following:
Top diseases in 1900(stats provided by public agenda.org):
1. Pneumonia (27% of all deaths). cause is infection with bacteria or virus.
2. Tuberculosis (11% of all deaths); cause is cause Micobacterium Tuburculosis.
3. Diarrhea (8% of all deaths); cause is dehydration.
4. Heart Disease (8% of all deaths); cause poor diet
5. Stroke (6% of all deaths); cause is poor diet
Top diseases in 2009:
1. Heart Disease: (6% of all deaths); Causes are smoking, poor diet
2. Cancer: (23% of all deaths); Causes are smoking, alcohol, poor diet, environmental exposure to hazardous chemicals
3. Stroke (6% of all deaths). Leading causes are smoking and poor diet.
4. Chronic Lung Disease: (5% of all deaths); 80% of cases caused by smoking
5. Accidents: (5% of all deaths); Unintentional injuries, falls, poisonings, vehicle accidents
You should also note here that COPD is the fastest rising cause of death on this list, and is actually expected to reach the top as baby boomers are aging. It is noted that deaths from this disease have increased 165% between 1965 and 1998.
The author noted that with an improved diet, quitting smoking, eliminating exposure to hazardous chemicals, and quitting drinking, we might be able to eliminate the top four leading causes of death in 2009.
Or, stated another way, antibiotic therapy and improved medical care has made "US" the leading cause of death. Or, stated another way, improved medicine since the last turn of the century has made "FUN" the leading cause of death.
He wrote that the way to solve this problem is for all of us to talk to our doctors about how to improve our diets.
My criticism of this solution is that it isn't that easy, as I would state the leading causes of death today are the following:
2. Peer pressure
I don't think there is any way accidents will ever be eliminated from this list, as accidents will always happen. However, even in this category, there has been improvements. The new saying, per se, is: safety first.
Yet, even while there are laws requiring people to wear seat belts and drive safely, progress can still be made, particularly in educating people how to do these things correctly.
Yet, due to stress, peer pressure, fun or anxiety we are all prone to put a little peddle to the medal. I mean, just today I drove three blocks with three wailing kids in the back seat, and some teenage drove with his buddies for the first time. I'm not sure it wasn't really my kids who stressed me, but the fact I was fatigued from working too much.
So, really, the only way to get rid of the top killers of 2009 will be to get rid of angry and grumpy bosses and our peers who urge us to go out and have a little fun due to the stress and anxiety the boss causes.
Or, perhaps you can say the leading cause of death today is the need for money.
So, minus the creation of a world where we don't have to quest for money, I don't see the leading causes of death changing any time soon.