This week it was announced that 3.3 million people are 'killed by alcohol' around the world every year. Or, if you prefer, alcohol kills 1 in 20 people to go alongside the 1 in 10 who are said to be killed by tobacco.
Like most figures related to alcohol these days, I suspect this to be an exaggeration, but it got me thinking about the causes of premature death in the world. For those people who are unfortunate enough to die before their time, what kills them?
Let's start with some uncontroversial statistics for serious diseases...
HIV/AIDS kills 1.6 million.
TB kills 1.0 million.
Diarrhoeal diseases kill 1.9 million.
Influenza kills at least 250,000.
Malaria kills 1.2 million.
And then let's take the various preventable lifestyle/environmental causes...
Injuries kill 5 million.
Tobacco kills 6 million.
Air pollution kills 7 million.
Suicide kills 800,000.
Hunger kills 10 million.
Obesity kills "at least" 2.8 million.
Illegal drugs kill 200,000.
Counterfeit medicines kill 1 million.
Alcohol kills 3.3 million.
Physical inactivity kills 3.2 million.
Pregnancy kills 1.0 million.
Climate change kills 5 million.
Salt kills 2.3 million.
High blood sugar kills 3 million.
Fizzy drinks kill 180,000.
Medical error kills 500,000.
There's bound to be a bit of double counting here (eg. part of the alcohol figure includes death by injury), but I've avoided most of it by excluding direct causes of death like heart disease (7 million), stroke (6.2 million) or cancer (7.6 million). I haven't even included infant mortality (6.6 million).
In other words, this is far from being an exhaustive death toll and it doesn't even attempt to include the vast and growing number of people who die peacefully in old age. Nevertheless, the list of "preventable" deaths above totals 57.23 million deaths a year. That is a pretty amazing statistic when you consider that only 55 million people actually die every year. Are we to assume that all deaths are preventable and some people are dying twice?