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Top causes of death in China today and in the future

Progress is a wonderful thing, as it generally affords us a better quality of life, with more modern conveniences, entertaining distractions, and lavish luxuries than in years past. However, many times we find that getting rid of old problems only leads to a whole host of new ones. In this way, we see that modern lifestyles are leading to people living longer, but at the same time, people are also dealing with the increased incidence of many diseases of affluence, and care providers have to help people approach healthcare in new ways as a result. Here, Pacific Prime China discusses what the top causes of death in China are today, as well as what we expect to see from such diseases in the future.

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How have the causes of death changed throughout China’s history?

One large study, conducted over 42 years in Shanghai, indicated that socioeconomic development most likely contributed to lower death rates for most diseases in China over the past several decades. They have found that enhancement of health infrastructure, which happened after a hepatitis A outbreak in 1898, led to a decrease in deaths caused by communicable infectious diseases. Later improvements in air quality may have accounted for the decline in deaths from respiratory conditions, such as COPD.

Socioeconomic factors: the good and the bad

While mortality rates from certain types of diseases decreased with the rise of socioeconomic development in China, the non-communicable disease (NCD) mortality rate grew. Over the course of the study, researchers found that 86.5% of all deaths were caused by chronic noncommunicable diseases. Furthermore, it is extremely hard to reduce the burden of NCDs in China, compared to other types of diseases, as it would take widespread changes to the lifestyles of over a billion people.  

A relatively quick change of lifestyles within China’s population, and the addition of new risk factors, such as a change in diet, leading to becoming overweight or obese, alcohol consumption, smoking, and lack of physical activity, are conducive to the development of cancer, diabetes, and other NCDs.

Cardio-cerebrovascular disease, cancer, and diabetes will be the top causes of death in China

9 out of 10 of the top causes of death in China in 2016 were noncommunicable diseases. Cerebrovascular disease, ischemic heart disease, and COPD were the top 3 main causes of death in China in 2016, and over the past 13 years. This data serves as yet another confirmation that China’s health problems are now officially those of 1st world countries.

Cancers, such as lung cancer, liver cancer, esophageal cancer, and stomach cancer, are also in the top ranking for 2016. If we trust the Shanghai study’s predictions, cancer will remain the number 2 killer in China, right after cardio-cerebrovascular diseases. However, it seems that diabetes will become the third most common cause of death, as the proportion of deaths from respiratory diseases is predicted to decrease over time.

Chinese people live longer, but with more conditions

We can notice here that the risk factors for these dominant conditions are largely lifestyle-related, and, as such, individual lifestyle choices of people in China play an important role in their long term health. With better healthcare, and an overall increase in the standard of living, Chinese people live longer than expected in certain studies, but with more chronic conditions, which are burdens to both patients and the healthcare system.

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Access medical help with cancer and chronic disease insurance

With the high costs of medical care in China, especially in the private sector, those who seek professional care for any of chronic disease treatment or cancer treatment should secure appropriate health insurance in advance. With it, one can protect theirself from high financial costs related to cancer treatment, diabetes treatment, or any other noncommunicable disease, the top causes of death in China.

When it comes to cancer insurance, most standard health policies offer a cancer cover benefit, but you must buy the policy before you are diagnosed. Otherwise, it will be deemed a pre-existing condition and excluded from your plan. Usually, if you are diagnosed with any chronic condition or critical illness before enrolling in the policy, your plan will exclude any treatment related to or resulting from the disease, thereby exposing you to high out of pocket costs.

Similarly, obtaining insurance for any pre-existing condition such as high blood pressure ( one of the causes of heart attack, and other cardiovascular diseases) can be expensive, but in many cases, is still possible.

Seek medical insurance advice with Pacific Prime

Whether you are at high risk of developing any noncommunicable diseases or not is for your doctor to decide. For that, you’ll want to have a medical insurance plan with coverage in China that will not only allow you to get yearly check-ups, but also offer further protection and high maximum benefits in case you develop any chronic conditions.

Feel free to contact our team at Pacific Prime China and ask us any further questions you may have about medical insurance in China, cancer insurance, or pre-existing condition insurance in China.  

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Disclaimer: Pacific Prime China solely represents, operates and manages locally regulated insurance products and services in the territory of PR China. Any references to Pacific Prime Global Company or Group, the international services, insurance products or otherwise stated written or verbally, is for introduction purposes about our overseas network only as each entity is fully independent.


Content Creator at Pacific Prime China
Elwira Skrybus is a content writer at Pacific Prime. In her everyday work, she is utilizing her previous social media and branding experience to create informative articles, guides, and reports to help our readers simplify the sometimes-puzzling world of international health insurance.

When she isn’t writing, you are most likely to find Elwira in search of the perfect plant-based burger or enjoying Hong Kong’s great outdoors either at the beach or from the boat - the closer to the sea, the better!