Monday, September 16, 2019

What is killing us?

Chelsea Bruce-Lockhart and John Burn-Murdoch from the Financial Times' data team have charted “How life, death and disease have changed over the past 180 years”. John has a nice thread on Twitter with some extra information about the project.

The authors explain:
Since the turn of the 21st century, progress made in preventing the spread of infections and parasitic diseases around the world has led to three million fewer deaths each year. A further one million fewer deaths have reportedly been caused by neonatal conditions. Yet these improvements have been entirely offset by the rise in deaths caused by cardiovascular diseases and diabetes. On top of that, there are an additional two million people each year dying of cancer.
The piece contains two visualizations. First, a bubble scatter plot with four variables: disability-adjusted life years on the vertical axis (read the caption for an explanation of what this is); change in the number of deaths per year on the horizontal axis; type of death (color); and death rates (bubble size):

Cancer and coronary heart disease have increased a lot on both axes, while maladies that historically killed millions—and still kill too many,— such as malaria, tuberculosis, or HIV, have decreased.

My favorite graphic is this time series heat map of mortality rates in England and Wales which reveals a steady decline interrupted by the Spanish flu and the two world wars. I wish it were possible to switch the annotations on and off; they are necessary, but also quite obtrusive: