What are NCDs

Non-communicable diseases (NCDs), also known as chronic diseases, are not passed from person to person. They are of long duration and generally slow progression. The 4 main types of non-communicable diseases are cardiovascular diseases (like heart attacks and stroke), cancers, chronic respiratory diseases (such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma) and diabetes.

NCDs already disproportionately affect low and middle income countries where nearly three quarters of NCD deaths (28 million) occur.

Key Facts

  • Non-communicable diseases are by far the leading cause of death in the world, representing 63% of all annual deaths**
  • Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) kill 38 million people each year.
  • Almost three quarters of NCD deaths - 28 million - occur in low- and middle-income countries.
  • Sixteen million NCD deaths occur before the age of 70; 82% of these "premature" deaths occurred in low- and middle-income countries.
  • Cardiovascular diseases account for most NCD deaths, or 17.5 million people annually, followed by cancers (8.2 million), respiratory diseases (4 million), and diabetes (1.5 million).
  • These 4 groups of diseases account for 82% of all NCD deaths.
  • Tobacco use, physical inactivity, the harmful use of alcohol and unhealthy diets all increase the risk of dying from an NCD.


NCDs already pose a substantial economic burden and this burden will evolve into a staggering one over the next two decades. For example, with respect to cardiovascular disease, chronic respiratory disease, cancer, diabetes and mental health, the macroeconomic simulations suggest a cumulative output loss of US$ 47 trillion over the next two decades. This loss represents 75% of global GDP in 2010 (US$ 63 trillion).***

If the major risk factors for NCDs were eliminated, at around three-quarters of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes would be prevented; and 40% of cancer would be prevented.**

  • Programmes

    Working on-the-ground to tailor prevention programmes to community needs

  • Advocacy

    Filling the gaps in evidence to support a call for prevention programming

  • Research

    Working globally and locally to put adolescent health on the policy agenda

Page Atlas ID: 1025207.011
Date of next review: December 2017