A global rise in tobacco use in the next two decades will help heart disease remain one of humanity’s leading killers, while HIV/AIDS deaths will peak in 2012 before making a steady decline. This is according to an update of the World Health Organization’s “Burdens of Disease” report, which measures the current sources of human mortality and looks at how health and safety trends are changing worldwide. The result is that the WHO can tell us not only what is killing us now but also what will – and won’t – be killing us in 2030.
The WHO report updates information on the global burden of disease based on measurements from 2004 and projects how disease will affect the human population through 2030. Perhaps the most significant change it predicts is a global decline in deaths from communicable diseases. HIV/AIDS, the sixth leading cause of death in 2004 worldwide, is expected to peak around 2012 and drop to the number ten position by 2030. Other communicable diseases are expected to decline more quickly; tuberculosis, the seventh leading cause of death in 2004, is expected to plummet to number 23.
The sharp decline in communicable disease death will mean an increased aging population, especially in lower income countries, which means a greater proportion of the global population will die from diseases developed later in life, such as ischemic heart disease and cancers. But changes in global development and behaviors will also contribute to increases in certain causes of death. The WHO indicates that a global increase in tobacco smoking in middle- and low-income countries will bolster deaths from cardiovascular disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and some cancers. And increased transportation development and more crowded roads will help increase deaths from traffic accidents.