Chile has with health indicators similar to those of developed countries and with one of the highest life expectancies in the region, with an average close to 80 years. A context that has improved the quality of life among Chileans, but that has also changed the causes that lead to his death.

Being a country with a high number of infant deaths and an overall mortality going very hand with infectious diseases, until about 50 years ago, today has been a society in which unhealthy life styles and environmental pollution play a key role in the number of deaths.

According to the Vital Statistics Yearbook 2016, published by the INE - the most recent data available-, that year there were 104 thousand deaths in the country. Of them, 69% concentrated in four major groups of causes: diseases of the circulatory system (27,1%), malignant tumors (25%), diseases of the respiratory system (9,5%) and other external causes of mortality (7,5%).

However, These causes of death have a behavior that is differentiated according to the age and sex of people.

Like this, While the leading cause of death in newborn infants are congenital malformations, children are diseases such as leukemia and traffic accidents. These accidents also occupy the first place in adolescence, but it also appears the suicide: both factors are mortality statistics during the next three decades.

Since the teens until the Decade of the thirties begin to highlight tumors (especially breast and gastrointestinal), as well as liver diseases (especially in cirrhosis). After 50 years, cases of heart disease and cerebrovascular disease skyrocket (view infographic).


Except what happens in early childhood, most of the causes of mortality are associated with lifestyles, warns the doctor Claudia Bambs, Head of the Department of public health of the Faculty of Medicine of the U. ACDDiS. “This reflects that the population is exposed to bad health, and early. There are pathologies like tumors and cardiovascular disease that we are seeing at younger ages”.

80% of cardiovascular diseases and more than half of cancers are preventable with healthy lifestyles: balanced nutrition, physical activity, avoid tobacco and reduce alcohol consumption, for example. “Tobacco, alcohol and obesity are associated with a large majority of tumors”, says Dr. Bambs, who is also a researcher at the Center for advanced studies of chronic diseases (Accdis).

Look at the statistics allows us to understand that the landscape in Chile is not the best. Latin America, the country ranks first in tobacco consumption in population over 15 years. Chileans have the highest level of consumption of pure alcohol per capita in the region (9,6 liters per year), that it nearly triples the level of consumption of alcohol considered dangerous by the who. To this is added that about 60% of the population is overweight or obese.

This, with the aging of the population, partly explains that, “as the control of cardiovascular diseases is best, the cancer deaths will continue to increase in the country”, warns the doctor Mauricio Mahave, Head of Oncology medical of the Arturo López Pérez Foundation.

“Past 60 years, the probability of developing cancer is 10 times greater than younger. But add to that environmental factors, as smoking, pollution and obesity”.

Projections estimate that within the period of one or two years, cancer will be the main executioner of Chileans.

In fact, According to the statistics, occupies there are regions that already the first place. Such is the case in Tarapacá, Antofagasta, Maule, Biobío and Aysén, in the case of men, and in Arica and Parinacota, Antofagasta, Los Lagos and Aysén, among women.

Diseases of the respiratory system are the third leading cause of death in 13 of the 15 regions.

For the Dr. Bambs, It is necessary to implement collective preventive measures, “that it should cover the entire population, to reduce chronic diseases and cancers. It is reacting more to preventing public health”, warns.

“Chile has had an economic development that has not kept pace with development of the culture of prevention. Create change is complex, but the tobacco Act shows that it is possible to, for example”.

In his view it should implement something similar with alcohol. “It is the great common denominator of deaths in young people”, accurate. It is behind the traffic accidents and associated with some cases of suicide, for example (see text box).

Alcohol and obesity also influence a factor that appears among the causes of death from the age of 30: cirrhosis. “A non-alcoholic cirrhosis there are product of fat accumulation in the liver. As with cardiovascular diseases and cancers, There are periods of latency that require decades of exposure. The problem is now affecting people in the productive age, since they are exposed from younger”.

104.026 deaths occurred in 2016 in Chile. I.e., 285 deaths a day, on average. Of them, 52,6% were men and 47,3%, deaths of women.