Leading causes of death in Israel outlined in new Health Ministry report

Science and Health

Although the COVID-19 pandemic significantly increased Israeli mortality rates in the last two years, when these are excluded, the death rate in Israel in 2020 was the lowest for males and second lowest for females among eight countries including the US, Britain and Germany.

This was revealed by the a new, 107-page, Hebrew-language report by the Health Ministry’s data branch headed by Ziona Haklai covering from 2000 to 2020 and from 2020 to 2022. It was based on data from the Central Bureau of Statistics, and it was illustrated by dozens of colorful graphs.

Coronavirus in Israel 

Until 2019, the death rate was on a significant decline from previous years – 29% in men and 28% in women – but the pandemic was responsible for a rise. The standardized mortality rate from the new Coronavirus in Israel was the second lowest in the OECD, at 57 per 100,000, compared to 39 in Germany and 117 in Holland, 124 in Britain, 125 in the US and 137 in Spain.

In 2020, standardized death rates from all causes increased by only 3% in Israel between 2017-2019 and 2020, compared to 1% in Germany, 13% in Spain and a phenomenal 15% rise in the US.

Israel has a lower standardized mortality rate due to cancer, heart disease, stroke, liver disease, accidents and suicide than the US, Canada and most Western European countries – apparently due to its high level of healthcare and accessibility due to its universal health insurance.

However, Israel has a higher rate of death from sepsis, kidney disease, diabetes complications, pneumonia, influenza and hypertension than the average rate of 15 OECD countries.

Disaster at Meron

Last moments before the arrival of thousands of pilgrims to Mount Meron. (credit: MEIR DAHAN & YINON SHOVALI/OR HARASHBI)

In 2021, the death rate among young people aged 15 to 44 rose by 7%, apparently due to the disaster at Meron on Lag Ba’Omer in which 45 were trampled to death due to poor infrastructure and too many who crowded the site.

A total of 48, 797 Israelis died in 2020 – 6% more than the previous year and 10% more than in 2018. Three years ago, the number-one cause of morality in both men and women was cancer, followed bycardiovascular disease. This compares with the US, where due to high obesity rates, heart disease is the top cause of death followed by cancer.

In Israel, COVID-19 was the third-highest cause of death in males, but dementia was number three in females. Complications of diabetes were the number-four-highest cause of mortality in males, while the pandemicwas number four in females. Stroke and other neurovascular diseases placed fifth in males and diabetes complications in women.

More Israelis die during the colder, wetter winter months than during the warm summer months due to respiratory failure, pneumonia, kidney disease, dementia, diabetes complications, stroke and sepsis.