The Economic Value of Avoidable Mortality

Angela Y. Chang, Gretchen A. Stevens, Diego S. Cardoso, Bochen Cao, and Dean T. Jamison


Background: There is a need for a systematic economic valuation of global mortality burden that can serve as an “envelope” for all such studies. Current studies also do not reflect the decreasing marginal economic values that should be assigned to increased risk reductions. As part of the World Bank’s Healthy Longevity Initiative, this paper introduces and provides results based on new analytical methods for defining and estimating the economic value of avoidable mortality.

Methods: We estimated the economic value of avoidable mortality by world regions, sex, and age, between 2000 and 2021, with projection to 2050. We computed avoidable mortality by identifying the lowest observed or projected mortality rates (called the frontier). We defined avoidable mortality as the difference between current/projected and frontier mortality. Second, we defined the economic value of avoidable mortality as the proportion of annual income one is willing to forgo to live that year at the frontier. We modified empirical estimates of the marginal value of mortality reduction for the effect of large risk changes.

Findings: In 2019, 69% of deaths, or 40 million deaths, were avoidable. Globally, more avoidable deaths occurred in older adults than children, adolescents or younger adults. The economic value of avoidable mortality globally in 2019 was 23% of annual income, with lowest and highest percentages in China (19%) and sub-Saharan Africa (34%), respectively. The economic value is approximately 37% higher for males than females, reflecting the higher avoidable mortality rates of males.

Interpretation: As governments worldwide engage in policy dialogues on how to invest in improving population health, our work provides supportive evidence on the high economic value placed on improving health, even when considering resource constraints.

Funding: The World Bank.