Actual Causes of Death in the United States
Most of the leading causes of death in our society are directly related to lifestyle behaviors. When these behaviors are examined separately, tobacco and diet/physical inactivity were found to be the biggest contributors. Data from McGinnis et al., 1993)
The majority of deaths in developed country are caused by chronic conditions that are largely caused by lifestyle behaviors. This slide provides estimates of the percentages of deaths that are related to different behaviors and environmental conditions. The second leading cause of preventable mortality was found to be physical inactivity. While tobacco has a stronger overall effect on health, the number of people at risk for smoking (~30%) is much lower than the number of people who are inactive (~50%). Based on these figures, many scientists have concluded that physical inactivity has a greater “population attributable risk” than other established risks or conditions. In other words, more deaths could be prevented by getting the population to be physically active than could be spared by getting everyone to quit smoking.