In 2020, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, diseases of the circulatory system were the main cause of death in all EU countries, except in Denmark, Ireland, France and the Netherlands, where cancer was the main cause. These two groups of diseases, remained the leading causes of death and in total, 1.7 million people died of circulatory diseases and almost 1.2 million died from cancer.
Among the EU members, the highest share of deaths due to diseases of the circulatory system was observed in Bulgaria (61 %) and the lowest in France (20%), while the highest share of deaths due to cancer was observed in Ireland (29 %) and the lowest share in Bulgaria (15 %).
Diseases of the circulatory system and cancers together represented 55 % of the causes of death in the EU, ranging from 42 % in Belgium and 76 % in Bulgaria.
In the year the pandemic broke out, COVID-19 was the third main cause of death in the EU, with a total of almost 439 000 deaths. The highest shares of death due to COVID-19 were registered in Belgium (18%) and Spain (15%), while the lowest were in Finland and Estonia (both 1%).
Death rate was highest in Bulgaria and lowest in France
To make a sound comparison between countries, the absolute numbers of deaths across the countries need to be adjusted to the size and structure of the population. With 1 787 deaths per 100 000 inhabitants, Bulgaria had the highest death rate in the EU in 2020. It was followed by Romania (1 622), Hungary (1 513), Lithuania (1 482) and Latvia (1 445).
At the opposite end of the scale, the lowest death rate across the EU countries was recorded in France (863 deaths per 100 000 inhabitants) and Ireland (892), ahead of Luxembourg (905), Finland (917) and Spain (919).
For more information:
- Statistics Explained article on causes of death statistics
- Database on health
- Thematic section on health