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Cause of death

\kɑz\ \ʌv\ \dɛθ\

The reason recorded for the death of a given individual. Studying common causes of death and the changes in their occurrence within a population can help us understand how longevity may change in the future.

In many countries, deaths are certified by doctors and information on the cause of death is collected. This enables historic statistical analyses, for example, in the UK cause of death data has revealed the virtual eradication of deaths from infectious diseases (e.g. tuberculosis) and the sharp reduction in deaths from cardiovascular diseases (heart disease, strokes). However, the data has its limitations because the recorded cause of death may be unreliable – for example, by recording the ultimate cause (e.g. pneumonia) rather than the underlying cause (e.g. old age or AIDS). An international standard for classifying deaths has been introduced in an attempt to bring greater consistency to recording practices.

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