Vox/The Lancet

Watch: Here's The #1 Reason People Die Early in Each Country

BEC CREW
23 AUGUST 2015

Somewhere in the world today, 150,000 people are going to die. And then tomorrow, another 150,000 will have their lives cut short. And the sad reality is where you're born will have a significant effect on how you die, and at what age. When scientists analyse this, they use a fascinating measurement called "years of life lost", says the Vox video above, which calculates how many years shy of a the maximum life expectancy a person dies. So where in the world has the worst record for years of life lost? 

 

The measurement works like this: if an individual has a life expectancy of 86, but crashes their car and dies at age 21, this can be quantified as "65 lost years of life due to car accidents". Every individual that is killed in a car accident before reaching their life expectancy will add to this statistic, and this is how scientists can figure out why people are dying early in a particular country or region.

Recently, hundreds of researchers from around the world joined together to collect and analyse those statistics for each country, and the results have been visualised in a map showing the number one causes for early death in 2013 around the world.

Some of the results are a grim reminder of what we already know - Africa isn't getting sufficient access to vaccines and medical professionals, so its top reasons for early death are infectious diseases: pneumonia, diarrhea, HIV/AIDS, and malaria. And what's so devastating about this isn't just that these diseases are easily treated in countries with more resources; four out of every 10 deaths in Africa are kids who don't even make it to 15 years old.

More surprising is the phenomenon of deadly road accidents in Saudi Arabia. Even though only 50 percent of the population are permitted to drive, traffic accidents are the number one cause of lost years of life. Thanks to the crazy antics its drivers get up to (wtf your way through the footage in the video above) and the barely enforced speed limits, 19 people will die on Saudi roads every day.

On the other end of the scale, there's the disease that gets us when we're creeping too close to old age: heart disease. It's the leading cause of lost years of life in the world's richest countries, and for better or worse, with the coming decades, we'll probably see it replace other leading causes of early death around the world as populations are figuring out how to live longer. 

Watch the Vox video above to see how your place of birth fares, and stay for the unexpectedly positive news at the end.