Poor Childhood NutritionThe WHO says a total of 10.4 million children, mostly in low- and middle-income countries, died in 2004 of poor nutrition. An estimated 39 percent of these deaths (4.1 million) were caused by micronutrient deficiencies, underweight, suboptimal breastfeeding and preventable environmental risks. Most of these preventable deaths occurred in the WHO African Region (39%) and the South-East Asia Region (43%).
AlcoholAlcohol use has a unique geographic and sex pattern, the WHO says. It exacts the largest toll on men in Africa, in middle-income countries in the Americas, and in some high-income countries. Alcohol contributes to more than 60 types of disease and injury, although it can also decrease the risk of coronary heart disease, stroke and diabetes. There is wide variation in alcohol consumption across regions. Consumption levels in some Eastern European countries are around 2.5 times higher than the global average of 6.2 litres of pure alcohol per year. With the exception of a few countries, the lowest consumption levels are in Africa and the Eastern Mediterranean. The regions with the highest proportions of deaths attributed to alcohol were Eastern Europe (more than 1 in every 10 deaths), and Latin America (1 in every 12 deaths).
Unsafe SexIn 2004, unsafe sex was estimated as being responsible for more than 99 percent of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection in Africa. In the middle-income countries, risks such as unsafe sex cause a larger share of burden of disease than in high-income countries. Most of the health burden from unsafe sex and child sex abuse occurs in younger adults, the WHO says. Unsafe sex is the leading risk factor for mortality in African women. One million African women are killed annually by HIV, human papillomavirus and other sexually transmitted infections. All cervical cancer is attributed to sexual transmission of the human papillomavirus. Cervical cancer accounts for 11 percent of global deaths due to unsafe sex, and is the leading cause of cancer death in the African Region.
High Blood PressureAccording to WHO's ranking of selected risk factors, high blood pressure topped the chart across regions of the world and in all income groups. As per data for the year 2004, this malady caused the death of 7.5 million people. In percentage terms, high blood pressure accounted for 12. 8 percent of all deaths in the world. In high income countries this accounted for 16.8 percent of deaths while the figure for middle income countries was 17.2 percent. In low-income countries high blood pressure was a lesser reason for death, accounting for only 7.5 percent of deaths.
Bad Sanitation and HygieneInadequate sanitation and hygiene increase the incidence of diarrhoeal diseases. The highest proportion of deaths, as well as the highest absolute numbers, occurs in countries with high mortality patterns, such as in Africa and parts of South-East Asia. Most diarrhoeal deaths in the world (88%) is caused by unsafe water, sanitation or hygiene. Overall, more than 99 percent of these deaths are in developing countries, and around 84 percent of them occur in children.
According to the Word Health Organization's (WHO) Global Health Risks report of 2009, the major health risks leading to premature death globally are underweight, unsafe sex, alcohol consumption, high blood pressure and bad sanitation and hygiene.
Reducing exposure to these risk factors would increase global life expectancy by nearly 5 years, the WHO says.