Avoidable mortality (preventable and treatable)

Indicators of avoidable mortality can provide a general “starting point” to assess the effectiveness of public health and health care systems in reducing deaths before 75 years of age from various diseases and injuries. However, further analysis is required to assess more precisely different causes of potentially avoidable deaths and interventions to reduce them.

In 2017, over 1 million premature deaths across EU countries could have been avoided through better prevention and health care interventions. This amounts to about two-thirds of deaths under age 75. Of these deaths, most (644 000 or about 64% of the total) were considered preventable through effective primary prevention and other public health measures, while slightly more than one-third (372 000 or about 36%) were considered treatable through more effective and timely health care interventions.

Lung cancer (23% of all deaths from preventable causes), ischaemic heart diseases (12%), alcohol-related deaths (11%), and transport and other accidents (8%) accounted for more than half of preventable mortality (Figure 6.1). Other major causes included stroke (6%), suicide (6%) and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) often related to smoking (6%).

The main treatable causes of mortality include ischaemic heart disease (20% of all deaths from treatable causes), colorectal cancer (16%), breast cancer (12%) and stroke (11%), which together account for about 60% of all deaths that could be avoided through the provision of timely and effective treatment. Pneumonia (6%), diabetes (4%) and hypertensive diseases (4%) are other major causes of premature deaths that are amenable to treatment.

Preventable mortality rates in 2017 were about three times lower in Cyprus and Italy compared with the rates in some Central and Eastern European countries such as Hungary, Latvia, Romania and Lithuania (Figure 6.2). Higher rates of premature death in these countries were mainly due to much higher mortality from ischaemic heart disease, accidents and alcohol-related deaths, as well as lung cancer in Hungary.

Mortality rates from treatable causes were also about three times lower in some Western and Northern European countries like France, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and Italy than in Central and Eastern European countries such as Romania, Latvia, Bulgaria and Lithuania. The higher rates in the latter group of countries were mainly driven by higher mortality rates from ischaemic heart disease, stroke and some treatable cancers.

Across the EU, preventable mortality rates were almost three times higher among men than among women (235 per 100 000 population for men, compared with 89 for women) because of higher death rates from all the leading causes of preventable death. Mortality rates from treatable causes were also nearly 40% higher among men than women, mainly due to higher death rates from ischaemic heart disease and stroke.


Eurostat (2020), Preventable and treatable mortality statistics, Statistics Explained, July 2020.

OECD/Eurostat (2019), Avoidable mortality: OECD/Eurostat lists of preventable and treatable causes of death, https://www.oecd.org/health/health-systems/Avoidable-mortality-2019-Joint-OECD-Eurostat-List-preventable-treatable-causes-of-death.pdf.

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