The Global Burden of Disease study, an annual assessment of health trends, provides worldwide and national estimates on more than 330 diseases, causes of death and injuries in 195 countries and territories.
A key measure of health is mortality - particularly at younger ages - and so avoiding early death from any cause is a key goal of health systems worldwide, noted the researchers. The number of deaths for kids under five years dropped below five million for the first time since the 1990s.
The report found that today, the average global life expectancy is 72.5 years (75.3 years for women and 69.8 years for men.) That's up from an average life expectancy of 65.1 years in 1990 and 58.4 years in 1970, the report said. Japan had the highest life expectancy in 2016 at 83.9 years, while the Central African Republic had the lowest at just 50.2 years. Absolute differences in death rates between countries have converged, meeting one of the aims of The Lancet's Commission on Investing in Health. However, with the increased life expectancy, the years lived with ill health or disability have also increased.
These "exemplar" nations may offer insight into which policies are most successful for accelerating health progress, the study authors noted.
Around 19% of deaths were caused by communicable diseases, maternal diseases, neonatal diseases and nutritional diseases (CMNN). Ischaemic heart disease - decreased blood flow and oxygen to the heart muscle - was the leading cause of premature mortality in all regions, apart from in low-income countries, where the leading cause was lower respiratory infections. The researchers found the total number of noncommunicable diseases spiked 16 percent from 2006 to 2016, which means there were over 5.5 million more deaths from those conditions in 2016 compared to 2006. The report also revealed that 1.1 billion people suffered from mental health and substance use disorders previous year.
Overall, deaths from infectious diseases have fallen. Exceptions included dengue which saw a significant increase, causing 37800 deaths in 2016 (81.8% increase since 2006), and extensively drug resistant tuberculosis which caused 10900 deaths in 2016 (67.6% increase since 2006).
Heart disease and tobacco ranked with conflict and violence as among the world's biggest killers a year ago, while poor diets and mental disorders caused people the greatest ill health, a large global study has found.
Meanwhile, the study also noted that despite a fall in the number of deaths related to self-harm and interpersonal violence, there was a rise in the number of deaths from firearms previous year. Since 2006, the number of deaths from conflict and terrorism has risen significantly, reaching 150500 in 2016 (143% increase since 2006), largely as a result of conflicts in North Africa and the Middle East. Tobacco smoking killed 7.1 million people.
The IHME-led study, involving more than 2,500 researchers in about 130 countries, found that poor diet was associated with almost one in five deaths worldwide previous year.
Diets low in whole grains, fruit, nuts and seeds, fish oils and high in salt were the most common risk factors, contributing to cases of obesity, high blood pressure, high blood sugar and high cholesterol.
Because of the strong links between these risks, the researchers explained that the true driver is likely to be diet and BMI, exacerbated by blood glucose levels and high blood pressure.