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Conditions - General Diseases & Conditions

Perspectives: Leading Causes of Death in Singapore (And Why “Old Age” Isn’t On The List)

Leading cause of death in Singapore

If you are wondering about what the leading causes of death in Singapore are, wonder no more. According to the Ministry of Health, the top 10 principal causes of death in Singapore in 2020 were:

 2020
Total No. of Deaths22,054
% of Total Deaths 
1. Cancer28.6
2. Ischaemic heart diseases20.5
3. Pneumonia18.5
4. Cerebrovascular diseases (including stroke)6.0
5. External causes of morbidity and mortality3.7
6. Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome & nephrosis3.1
7. Hypertensive diseases (including hypertensive heart disease)2.9
8. Other heart diseases2.1
9. Urinary tract infection2.1
10. Diabetes Mellitus1.2

What We Can Tell From This List?

Cancer is Leading Cause of Death in Singapore

What is clear is that based on the classification used in MOH’s list, cancer is the top cause of death (28.6% of all deaths), with ischaemic heart diseases coming in some way behind (though still a significant percentage) at 20.5%. It might surprise some people that pneumonia is also a major cause (18.5%), closely behind ischaemic heart diseases. In fact, pneumonia was the 2nd top cause of death for the preceding 2 years.

Watch Out for Heart and Vascular System-Related Diseases Too

However, a closer look at the list shows that deaths due to diseases involving the heart and the vascular system is under represented if one were to look only at the row for ischaemic heart diseases. Once we add in deaths due to cerebrovascular diseases, the percentage sums up to 26.5% – much closer to that for cancer, and ahead of pneumonia. There are significant common causes of ischaemic heart diseases and cerebrovascular diseases, such as high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol level, obesity and lack of physical activity. Further, at number 7 are hypertensive diseases (2.9%). These are diseases arising from high blood pressure (hypertension).

Perhaps it is no surprise that such heart and vascular diseases are prominent in Singapore given our typical lifestyle – late nights midnight-oil burning, high salt content (we love our food!), stress over work or children’s grades…

Lesson – We need to be aware of our blood pressure. Regular home monitoring is easy and affordable. Get yourself a blood pressure monitor and keep track of this vital health indicator. Watch that salt intake too.

Why is Dying of “Old Age” Not One of The Leading Cause of Death in Singapore?

Hold on – why is “old age” is not one of the leading causes of death in Singapore? That’s because “old age” is not a cause of death per se. To say that someone died of “old age” is another way of saying that the people died naturally due to illness associated with aging. As we get older, our bodies’ ability to repair itself diminishes and our immunity system weakens. In turn, our chances of fatal illness increase and we finally succumb to specific diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, cancer and pneumonia. Describing a person’s passing as being due to “old age” may give greater comfort to the deceased’s loved ones and perhaps preserves a greater sense of dignity for the deceased, but it is not accurate. This is why you won’t find “old age” included in “leading causes of death” lists.

Bonus Titbit: The “Immortal” Hydra

The “Immortal Hydra”

The hydra is not just a creature from mythology. These are actual inch-long organisms belonging to the same classification of animals as jellyfish, sea anemones and corals. Hydras are said to be biologically “immortal” due to their astounding ability regenerate parts of its body. They replace ALL their cells every 20 days, making them effectively immune to the aging process. They can still be killed, just not “die of old age”.

Will medical science one day be able to replicate this ability in humans?

This article is informative only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment, and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.