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Leading Causes of Death in Canada, 2001

2: Nice to Know:

An obvious question is "Which are the most important diseases in Canada today?" The answer might be used in setting priorities for prevention, for public policy, etc.

There is no single answer, because there are several different ways to judge the relative importance of different illnesses. You can count all deaths (at whatever age), or just "premature" death (arbitrarily defined here as deaths below age 70). Or, you can give additional weight to those deaths that occur at younger ages, i.e. Potential Years of Life Lost (PYLL). Here is the result of the simple ranking by numbers of deaths occurring before age 70:

Leading causes of death in Canada

The PHAC provides some nice coloured charts showing leading causes of death, and of hospital admissions, for each age.

But many important illnesses do not kill, so we can also show Year-Equivalents lost due to Reduced Functioning (e.g., years spent in hospital, or off work, or with some level of incapacity, each suitably weighted). These are called "YERFs" by Statistics Canada, but are called Years Lost to Disability (YLD) by the WHO.   Here is the result:

Top 10 diseases ranked by YERF, compared to YLD, Canada 2002 (interim estimate)

Disease name

Rank by YERF

YERF

% total

Rank by YLD

YLD

% total

Unipolar depressive disorders

1

306,669

12.6%

1

319,771

13.8%

Diabetes mellitus

2

193,516

7.9%

6

105,354

4.5%

Hearing loss, adult onset

3

178,643

7.3%

2

190,494

8.2%

Alcohol use disorders

4

144,291

5.9%

4

166,021

7.1%

Osteoarthritis

5

114,945

4.7%

5

121,373

5.2%

Cerebrovascular disease

6

88,873

3.6%

7

82,296

3.5%

Alzheimer and other dementias

7

87,210

3.6%

3

185,168

8.0%

Asthma

8

82,941

3.4%

8

54,427

2.3%

Rheumatoid arthritis

9

50,643

2.1%

15

33,091

1.4%

Edentulism

10

49,328

2.0%

29

14,843

0.6%

Note: The YERF is calculated with the Canadian preference scores; the YLD is calculated with the WHO’s disability weights used in the region for Canada.

Finally, these two (deaths plus disabilities) can be combined, using the approach called "Health Adjusted Life Years" (HALYs).
Here is the result:

Top 10 diseases ranked by HALY, Canada, 2002 (interim estimates)

Rank

Disease name

%

HALYs

1

Ischaemic heart disease

9.2%

464,630

2

Unipolar depressive disorders

6.1%

307,778

3

Diabetes mellitus

5.6%

281,699

4

Cerebrovascular disease

4.7%

238,136

5

Trachea, bronchus, lung cancers

4.6%

231,569

6

Hearing loss, adult onset

3.5%

178,643

7

Alzheimer and other dementias

3.5%

175,927

8

Alcohol use disorders

3.1%

156,393

9

Osteoarthritis

2.3%

116,363

10

Breast cancer

2.3%

114,240

Link to Public Health Agency of Canada, which has an excellent web resource on Chronic Disease Surveillance. This allows you to print off maps showing the distribution of all kinds of disease - go play with it!

Leading Causes of Death in the USA, 2000

  • The US National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) has a neat interactive web site that enables you to query their data base: http://www.cdc.gov/ncipc/wisqars/
  • As an example, the rank ordering of leading causes of death in the USA (all races and both sexes combined), for selected age groups, looks like this:
  • Rank
    < 1 year
    1-4 yrs
    10-14
    35-44
    55-64
    > 64
    1
    Congenital anomalies
    Injuries
    Injuries
    Malignant neoplasms
    Malignant neoplasms
    Heart disease
    2
    Short gestation
    Congenital anomalies
    Malignant neoplasms
    Injuries
    Heart disease
    Malignant neoplasms
    3
    SIDS
    Malignant neoplasms
    Suicide
    Heart disease
    Lower resp. tract
    Cerebrovasc. disease
    4
    Complications of maternal pregnancy
    Homicide
    Homicide
    Suicide
    Cerebrovasc. disease
    Lower resp. tract
    5
    Placenta cord membrane
    Heart disease
    Congenital anomalies
    HIV
    Diabetes mellitus
    Influenza, pneumonia
    6
    Respiratory
    Influenza, pneumonia
    Heart disease
    Liver disease
    Injuries
    Diabetes mellitus
    7
    Injuries
    Septicemia
    Lower resp. tract
    Homicide
    Liver disease
    Alzheimer's disease
    8
    Bacterial sepsis
    Perinatal period
    Cerebrovasc. disease
    Cerebrovasc. disease
    Nephritis
    Nephritis
    9
    Circulatory diseases
    Benign neoplasms
    Influenza, pneumonia
    Lower resp. tract
    Suicide
    Injuries
    10
    Intrauterine hypoxia
    Lower resp. tract
    Benign neoplasms
    Influenza, pneumonia
    Septicemia
    Septicemia

    Dying - One of the few things you can do lying down. Woody Allen

    Updated January 13, 2015