Introduction The profile of causes of death in Brazil has changed in recent decades. The objective is to describe the evolution of mortality from chronic diseases in Brazil, 1980–2008.
Methods Crude and age- and sex-standardised mortality rates (SMR) and proportional mortality ratios (PMR) were calculated from data from the Mortality Information System of the Ministry of Health.
Results In the period of 1980–2008, diseases of the circulatory system were the main cause of death (PMR=32.1% in 1980, 31.8% in 2008). Despite the stability of this indicator for the whole country, there were significant regional differences. Neoplasms were the fourth group of causes of death in 1980 (PMR=10.4), and the second in 2008 (PMR=16.8%), with a positive percentage change of 62.1%. This trend of strong growth was seen in all regions, especially in the North (91.2%) and Northeast (87.1%). Of the 1 066 842 deaths registered in 2008, almost 60% had causes related to the circulatory system, cancer and respiratory tract. The SMR for diseases of the circulatory system was 139.5 deaths per 100 000 inhabitants, highest in the Southeast (143.2) and lowest in the North (113.8). For neoplasms, the SMR was 75.5 deaths per 100 000 inhabitants, higher in the South (92.6) and lowest in the North (57.7).
Conclusion From 1980 to 2008, there was a change in the mortality profile, with increased proportion of deaths due to causes related to chronic diseases, to the detriment of infectious and parasitic diseases. The social and economic differences between Brazilian regions are reflected in differences in mortality rates.
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