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In 2016, 5.1 million persons died in the European Union (EU), some 80 000 less than in the previous year. One-third of these deaths occurred to people aged less than 75 (1.7 million, 33%), whilst 1.5 million people died between the ages of 75 and 85 (29%) in 2016. 1.9 million deaths concerned people aged 85 and over (38%).
Lithuania has one of highest death rates in EU
© DELFI / Tomas Vinickas

Heart attacks, strokes, cancer: main causes of deaths in the EU

Slightly over 1.8 million people died from diseases of the circulatory system (mainly heart attacks and strokes), while 1.3 million died from cancer in 2016. These were the two main causes of deaths in the EU, responsible for 36% and 26% of all deaths respectively. Diseases of the circulatory system were the main cause of deaths in all EU Member States, except in Denmark, France, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom where cancer was the main killer.

The third main cause of death in the EU was diseases of the respiratory system, which killed 422 000 persons in 2016 (8% of all deaths in the EU).

A significant share of deaths in the EU were also due to accidents and other external causes of deaths (237 000 deaths, 5% of all deaths in the EU), diseases of the digestive system (222 000 deaths, 4%), mental and behavioural diseases such as dementia (220 000 deaths, 4%) and diseases of the nervous system including Alzheimer’s (219 000 deaths, 4%).

Death rate highest in Bulgaria, the lowest in Spain

To make a sound comparison between countries, the absolute numbers of deaths across the Member States need to be adjusted to the size and structure of the population.

With 1 602 deaths per 100 000 inhabitants, Bulgaria had the highest death rate in the EU in 2016. It was followed by Latvia and Romania (both 1 476), Lithuania (1 455) and Hungary (1 425).

At the opposite end of the scale, the lowest death rate across the EU Member States was recorded in Spain (829 deaths per 100 000 inhabitants), ahead of France (838), Italy (843), Malta (882), Luxembourg (905) and Sweden (913).

The death rate stood on average at 1 002 deaths per 100 000 inhabitants in the EU in 2016.

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