The Global Burden of Disease study found that non-communicable diseases such as cancer and diabetes now account for nearly three-quarters of the 55.9 million deaths worldwide.
The leading cause of death is cardiovascular disease, with abnormal tissue growth including cancers in second place, and chronic respiratory conditions in third. Among cancer deaths, lung cancer was the most common cause.
Experts say the latest findings reflect an accelerating shift away from deaths relating to infections and problems around birth and towards diseases such as cancer and diabetes.
High blood glucose – which can lead to diabetes – was the fourth biggest risk factor for an early death, while almost nine per cent of deaths worldwide – about five million – were attributable to air pollution, putting it in fifth place.
The opioid epidemic was a major killer, with the number of deaths from substance use disorders up by almost 24 per cent since 2007, with a 77 per cent jump for opioid deaths: about 110,000 people are thought to have died from the use of such drugs in 2017.
Poor diet was the greatest risk factor for death from non-communicable disease. A bad diet was behind more than 19 per cent of all deaths worldwide in 2017 and almost 70 per cent of coronary heart disease deaths.
Read more: The Global Burden of Disease study’s findings here.