Published on Data Blog

How do Causes of Death Vary Between Men and Women?


This is part of a series of blogs focused on the Sustainable Development Goals and data from the 2016 Edition of World Development Indicators.

Source: World Development Indicators and World Health Organization (WHO) Global Health Estimates Note: Causes of death by communicable diseases and maternal, prenatal and nutrition conditions are grouped together by WHO.

As Emi Suzuki wrote last week, the causes and patterns of death rich and poor countires vary and they're changing.  But what about the gender dimension? 

Women can expect to live longer than men in almost every country of the world . Globally, women's life expectancy remains about 3 years longer than men's, and you see the data for different countries in the interactive chart below:

Source: World Development Indicators

The share of men and women who survive to different ages varies by country 

You might remember reading about what the statistic "life expectancy at birth"  really means. What the data above tell us is how long a newborn can expect to live assuming "mortality patterns" at the time of its birth remain constant in the future. But what are these "mortality patterns"?

To get some idea, we can looking at the data another way using "survival curves". The chart below shows estimates of what proportion of men and women can expect to survive to different ages in different countries. We've selected Swaziland to give an example of a country where high maternal mortality rates and high HIV prevalence among females contribute to the share of women surviving to ages 25 - 65 being lower than the share of men.

Note that the survival curves chart uses data for 2010 - 2015 from the UN World Population Prospects -  the regions included are the UN's regions and not the World Bank's.

The causes of death vary by both gender and region 

While men and women can expect to die at different ages, there are also differences in the causes of death. Worldwide, about half of women aged 15-34 who died, died of communicable diseases and maternal conditions in 2012 , while in 2012, worldwide, half of men aged 15-34 died of injury . There are further differences when you look at individual regions:

In Sub-Saharan Africa about 72 percent of women aged 15-34 who died, died due to communicable diseases and maternal conditions, and in Latin America and Caribbean, 71 percent of male deaths occurred due to injuries dominated by interpersonal violence .

In Europe & Central Asia and Middle East & North Africa about 50 percent of young adult women who died, died due to non-communicable diseases. However, in these two regions more than 50 percent of young adult males died due to injury.

You can read more about the changing causes of death around the world, and access more gender-related data via the Gender Data Portal.


Dereje Ketema Wolde

Consultant, Development Data Group

Tariq Khokhar

Global Data Editor & Senior Data Scientist

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