Mortality rate

Not to be confused with case fatality rate.
Crude death rate by country (2006).

Mortality rate, or death rate,[1] is a measure of the number of deaths (in general, or due to a specific cause) in a particular population, scaled to the size of that population, per unit of time. Mortality rate is typically expressed in units of deaths per 1,000 individuals per year; thus, a mortality rate of 9.5 (out of 1,000) in a population of 1,000 would mean 9.5 deaths per year in that entire population, or 0.95% out of the total. It is distinct from "morbidity", a term used to refer to either the prevalence or incidence of a disease,[2] and also from the incidence rate (the number of newly appearing cases of the disease per unit of time).

Related measures of mortality

Other specific measures of mortality include:

Other measures of mortality used to provide indications of the relative success or failure of medical treatment or procedures (for life-threatening illnesses, etc.) include:

Survival rates

Mortality may also be expressed in terms of survival.[7] Thus, the survival rate is equivalent to "1 minus the cumulative death rate"[8] (with "death from all causes", for example, being expressed in terms of overall survival). Censored survival curves that incorporate missing data by using the Kaplan–Meier estimator can sometimes be compared using statistical tests such as the log-rank test or the Cox proportional hazards test.


World historical and predicted crude death rates (1950–2050)
UN, medium variant, 2012 rev.[9]

The ten countries with the highest crude death rate, according to the 2014 CIA World Factbook estimates, are:[10]

Rank Country Death rate
(annual deaths/1,000 persons)
1  South Africa 17.49
2  Ukraine 15.72
3  Lesotho 14.91
4  Chad 14.56
5  Guinea-Bissau 14.54
6  Bulgaria 14.30
7  Afghanistan 14.12
8  Central African Republic 14.11
9  Somalia 13.91
10  Russia 13.83

See list of countries by death rate for worldwide statistics.

According to the World Health Organization, the ten leading causes of death in 2002 were:[11]

  1. 12.6% Ischaemic heart disease
  2. 9.7% Cerebrovascular disease
  3. 6.8% Lower respiratory infections
  4. 4.9% HIV/AIDS
  5. 4.8% Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  6. 3.2% Diarrhoeal diseases
  7. 2.7% Tuberculosis
  8. 2.2% Trachea/bronchus/lung cancers
  9. 2.2% Malaria
  10. 2.1% Road traffic accidents

Causes of death vary greatly between developed and less developed countries. See list of causes of death by rate for worldwide statistics.

Scatter plot of the natural logarithm of the crude death rate against the natural log of per capita real GDP. The slope of the trend line is the elasticity of the crude death rate with respect to per capita real income. It indicates that a 10% increase in per capita real income is associated with a 1.5% decrease in the crude death rate. Source: World Development Indicators.

According to Jean Ziegler (the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food for 2000 to March 2008), mortality due to malnutrition accounted for 58% of the total mortality in 2006: "In the world, approximately 62 millions people, all causes of death combined, die each year. In 2006, more than 36 million died of hunger or diseases due to deficiencies in micronutrients".[12]

Of the roughly 150,000 people who die each day across the globe, about two thirds—100,000 per day—die of age-related causes.[13] In industrialized nations, the proportion is much higher, reaching 90%.[13]

Use in health care

Early recording of mortality rate in European cities proved highly useful in controlling the plague and other major epidemics.[14] Public health in industrialised countries was transformed when mortality rate as a function of age, sex and socioeconomic status emerged in the late 19th and 20th centuries.[15][16] This track record has led to the argument that inexpensive recording of vital statistics in developing countries may become the most effective means to improve global health.[17] Gathering official mortality statistics can be very difficult in developing countries, where many individuals lack the ability or knowledge to report incidences of death to National Vital Statistics Registries. This can lead to distortion in mortality statistics and a wrongful assessment of overall health. Studies conducted in northeastern Brazil, where underreporting of infant mortality is of huge concern, have shown that alternative methods of data collection, including the use of "popular Death Reporters" (Members of the community who are active in traditional death rituals of the child and the family grieving process), have been very successful in providing valid, qualitative mortality statistics, effectively reducing underreporting.[18]

See also


  1. Porta, M, ed. (2014). "Death rate". A Dictionary of Epidemiology (5th ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 69. ISBN 978-0-19-939005-2.
  2. Porta, M, ed. (2014). "Morbidity rate". A Dictionary of Epidemiology (5th ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 189. ISBN 978-0-19-939005-2.
  3. Search for "World".
  4. Everitt, B.S. The Cambridge Dictionary of Statistics, CUP. ISBN 0-521-81099-X
  5. Porta, M, ed. (2014). "Cumulative death rate". A Dictionary of Epidemiology (5th ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 64. ISBN 978-0-19-939005-2.
  6. Porta, M, ed. (2014). "Case fatality rate". A Dictionary of Epidemiology (5th ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 36. ISBN 978-0-19-939005-2.
  7. Rothman, KJ (2012). Epidemiology: An Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 49–50. ISBN 978-0-19-975455-7.
  8. Last, JM, ed. (2008). "Survival rate". A Dictionary of Epidemiology (4th ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 240. ISBN 978-0-19-971815-3.
  9. UNdata: Crude death rate (per 1000 population)
  10. CIA World Factbook – Death Rate
  12. Jean Ziegler, L'Empire de la honte, Fayard, 2007 ISBN 978-2-253-12115-2, p.130.
  13. 1 2 Aubrey D.N.J, de Grey (2007). "Life Span Extension Research and Public Debate: Societal Considerations" (PDF). Studies in Ethics, Law, and Technology. 1 (1, Article 5). doi:10.2202/1941-6008.1011. Retrieved August 7, 2011.
  14. Greenwood, Major (2014) [1948]. Medical Statistics from Graunt to Farr: The Fitzpatrick Lectures for the Years 1941 and 1943. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-1-107-65290-3.
  15. Jha, P (2002). "Avoidable mortality in India: Past progress and future prospects". The National medical journal of India. 15 Suppl 1: 32–6. PMID 12047131.
  16. Jha, P (2001). "Reliable mortality data: A powerful tool for public health". The National medical journal of India. 14 (3): 129–31. PMID 11467137.
  17. Jha, Prabhat (2012). "Counting the dead is one of the world's best investments to reduce premature mortality". Hypothesis. 10 (1). doi:10.5779/hypothesis.v10i1.254.
  18. "Flesh, Blood, Souls, and Households: Cultural Validity in Mortality Inquiry". Medical Anthropology Quarterly. 5 (3): 204–220. September 1991. doi:10.1525/maq.1991.5.3.02a00020. JSTOR 648673.


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