Causes and occurrence of deaths in the EU


© pixelaway /

In 2015, 5 217 376 persons died in the European Union (EU), some 272 000 more than in the previous year. 2 million of these deaths (or 38%) occurred between the ages of 70 and 85, while nearly a quarter (24%) of all deaths concerned people aged less than 70.


Heart attacks, strokes, cancer: main causes of deaths in the EU

Slightly over 1.9 million people died from diseases of the circulatory system (mainly heart attacks and strokes), while 1.3 million died from cancer. These were the two main causes of deaths in the EU, responsible for 37% and 26% of all deaths respectively. Diseases of the circulatory system were the main cause of deaths in all EU Member States, except in Denmark, France, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom where cancer was the main killer.

The third main cause of death in the EU was diseases of the respiratory system, which killed 442 100 persons in 2015 (8% of all deaths in the EU).

A significant share of deaths in the EU were also due to accidents and other external causes of deaths (230 000 deaths), diseases of the digestive system (almost 219 000 deaths), mental and behavioural diseases such as dementia (214 500 deaths) and diseases of the nervous system including Alzheimer’s (213 000 deaths, 4%).


Death rate in the EU Member States

The source dataset can be found here.


Death rate highest in Bulgaria, lowest in France

To make a sound comparison between countries, the absolute numbers of deaths across Member States need to be adjusted to the size and structure of the population.

With 1660 deaths per 100 000 inhabitants, Bulgaria had the highest death rate in the EU in 2015. It was followed by Romania (1530), Hungary (1500), Lithuania (1490), Latvia (1489), Croatia (1430) and Slovakia (1390).

At the opposite end of the scale, the lowest death rate across the EU Member States was recorded in France (859 deaths per 100 000 inhabitants), ahead of Spain (873), Italy (901), Sweden (927) and Luxembourg (930).

The death rate stood on average at 1036 deaths per 100 000 inhabitants in the EU in 2015.


Explore further:

Eurostat website section dedicated to statistics on causes of death.

For more information please contact us: