Physicians' Academy for Cardiovascular Education

Stark decline in mortality due to coronary heart disease in Europe since early 1980s

News - June 26, 2013

Mortality due to coronary heart disease (CHD) has greatly declined in Europe over the past decades.  This can be attributed to improved care and treatment, and to a decline in risk factors such as smoking. On the other hand, other CHD risk factors such as obesity have been increasing steadily. Cardiovascular diseases remain the main cause of death in most European countries.

The net effect of opposing factors on CHD mortality has been studied using data of between 1980 and 2009 from the WHO global mortality database.


Since the early 1980s, CHD mortality rates have dropped by almost half in many European countries. Differences exist among countries but age and sex categories vary less within countries. Some countries showed a plateauing of trends in certain age groups, but it cannot be said that the European Union as a whole is reaching a plateau phase. In a few countries an increase in CHD mortality was even observed for younger subpopulations.

The largest declines in mortality rates were in Denmark, Malta, The Netherlands, Sweden and United Kingdom (more than 4% reduction in men and more than 3.9% decline in women). Exceptions to declining mortality rates were seen for men in Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Romania, and for women in Greece, Hungary, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Slovakia.

In the majority of countries the mortality rate from CHD before age 45 was <2 per 100000 in women, while for man this ranged between 2.1 and 14.6 per 100000.


It had been hypothesised that CHD mortality rates of younger age groups were more likely to plateau, but there is limited evidence to support this.


Substantial differences exist between countries, so the EU should work towards reducing preventable risk factors for CHD, to promote well-being all throughout the region.



1. Nichols M, Townsend N, Scarborough P and Rayner M. Trends in age-specific coronary heart disease mortality in the European Union over three decades: 1980–2009.  Eur Heart J June 25, 2013 doi: 10.1093/eurheartj/eht159


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