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Nigerians identify Sickness, Poverty and Motor Accidents as Leading Causes of Death

Abuja, Nigeria. March 24th, 2015 – Latest snap poll results released by NOIPolls Limited has revealed that ‘Sickness’ (26 percent)‘Poverty’ (24 percent), and ‘Motor accidents’ (16 percent), are considered the three leading causes of death in Nigeria amongst other causes. In line with this finding, most respondents (65 percent) were of the opinion that Nigerians do not live up to old age in recent times; with perceptions divided between ‘50 years or less’ and ‘70 years’ (26 percent each) as the current life expectancy in Nigeria. Although the World Health Statistics 2014 report published by the World Health Organisation (WHO) revealed that the life expectancy in Nigeria rose from 46 years in 1990 to 54 years in 2012.[1]

Furthermore, 68 percent of the respondents interviewed disclosed that they personally know individuals who have passed away in the last three months with majority of these respondents within the North-West (77 percent) and North-East (76 percent) zones. This isn’t surprising given recent incidents of attacks and the challenge of insurgency which have claimed many lives in these regions. In addition, ‘Sickness’ was pointed out as the leading cause of death of these individuals (65 percent); followed by ‘Motor accident’ (12 percent)‘Natural death’ (11 percent) and ‘Insurgency’ (8 percent) amongst other causes.

Finally, the findings from this poll highlights crucial implications for key policy reforms in Nigeria’s public health system, poverty alleviation & rural development planning, and the transportation & road sector. As such there are key considerations for various stakeholders ranging from: government at the federal, state and local levels; public health policy makers and institutions; poverty alleviation agencies & instutions; the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC), federal and state road maintenance agencies, as well as key ministeries and agencies relating to road and transportation in Nigeria. These are the key findings from the Leading Causes of Death poll conducted in the week of March 16th 2015.

Brief Background

Recently, the WHO indicated that the mortality rate in Nigeria is high. With several socio-economic, health and environmental factors contributing to the high mortality rate in Nigeria, malnutrition has been identified by a recent Directorate for Food, Roads and Rural Infrastructures (DFRRI) as a dangerous problem threatening long life in Nigeria despite Nigeria’s vast arable land that is enough to grow sufficient food. Families and communities need to be educated on the best way to feed in order to increase the life expectancy in the country.[2]

There is also the menace of road accidents; this has killed nearly 1.3 million people annually according to Dr. David Okello, director at World Health Organization (WHO). Another cause of death is the sad incidence of insurgency that has ravaged parts of the North-West and North-East regions. While the government and other stakeholders have risen to fight against insecurity especially in these zones, there is still more to be done to curtail the predominant deaths among Nigerians by improving the standard of living of Nigerians as well as the creation of more awareness on precautionary measures to prevent accidents that lead to death.[3]

Against this background, NOIPolls conducted its recent poll on the leading causes of death in Nigeria to gauge the perception of Nigerians on the life expectancy and the major causes of death in Nigeria.

Survey Findings

Respondents to the poll were asked five specific questions. Firstly, respondents were asked: In your opinion, do you think Nigerians live long to old age in recent times? The findings revealed that most respondents (65 percent) think that Nigerians do not live long to old age nowadays, whereas, 35 percent responded positively to the question.

Subsequently, respondents were asked: What do you think is the current life expectancy in Nigeria? The perception of Nigerians on the life expectancy in Nigeria is divided between ‘50 years or less’ and ‘70 years’ (26 percent each). This is closely followed by respondents (23 percent) who mentioned ‘60 years’, while 12 percent claimed it is ‘80 years’ amongst other responses. This current poll result supports the World Health Statistics 2014 report published by the World Health Organisation (WHO), which indicated that Nigerians’ life expectancy rose from 46 years in 1990 to 54 years in 2012.

Further analysis revealed geo-political zone variations in perceptions of Nigerians on life expectancy in Nigeria. While a higher proportion of Nigerians in the North-Central (34 percent) and North-West (35 percent) zonesperceive life expectancy in Nigeria to be ‘50 years or less’, more respondents from the South-East (35 percent) and South-West (34 percent) zones indicated ‘70 years’. Also, the North-East zone has the largest proportion (29 percent) of respondents who indicated 60 years. These variations in geo-political zones may be influenced by several socio-economic and environmental factors that are peculiar to each zone. For instance responses from the North-West zone may be influenced by insurgency in the region which has claimed many lives in recent times.

Respondents were further asked: Do you know anyone who passed away in the last three months? In response to this question, a larger proportion (68 percent) of respondents disclosed knowing people who have passed away over the last three months with majority of the respondents within this group from the North-West (76 percent) and North-East zones (77 percent). Conversely, 32 percent of the respondents claimed that they are not aware of anyone who has passed away within the last three months with majority of respondents in this category from the South-East zone (35 percent) and the South-West zone (44 percent).

Respondents who said yes to the previous question (68 percent of the total) were further asked: What was the cause of death of the individual? Findings revealed that 65 percent of Nigerians who admitted knowing people that have passed away within the last three months reported ‘Sickness’ as the leading cause of death of these individuals. ‘Motor accident’ (12 percent)‘natural death’ (11 percent) and ‘insurgency’ (8 percent) were other factors reported by Nigerians from different regions.

Further analysis by geo-political zones revealed that the North-West zone (15 percent) and North-East zone (14 percent) have the highest fraction of respondents who indicated insurgency as the cause of death. The North-Central zone (57 percent) has the largest proportion of Nigerians who acknowledged motor accident as the cause of death.

This finding therefore confirms the report of the Chairman of the Governing Board of the Federal Road Safety Commission, Felix Chukwu, stating that the Federal Capital Territory as part of the North-Central zone has the highest fatality rate in the country from road accidents in 2014.[4] In line with this, some of the routes mentioned are the Abuja-Gwagwalada-Yangoji-Abaji-Lokoja area, Abuja-Nyanya-Keffi area, Akwanga­ Lafia highway, Okene ­Lokoja highway, Abuja ­Suleja highway and Abuja-Zuba-Sabon Wuse-Kateri-Kakau-Kaduna area as well as the city centre roads amongst other routes.[5]

Finally, in order to ascertain the leading cause of death in Nigeria, respondents were asked: In your opinion, what do you think is the major cause of death in Nigeria? The outcome indicates that ‘Sickness’ is the leading cause of death in Nigeria as reported by majority of the respondents (26 percent). This is followed by ‘Poverty’ (24 percent)‘Motor accident’ (16 percent) and ‘Malnutrition’ (7 percent) amongst other causes of death in the country.

In conclusion, 65 percent of respondents surveyed believe Nigerians do not live long in recent times, while 35 percent responded positively. To this effect Nigerians believe that the life expectancy of an average Nigerian is ’50 years and below’ or ‘70 years’ (26 percent each). In addition, 68 percent of Nigerians disclosed they know individuals who have passed away over the last three months, with ‘Sickness’ cited as the major cause of death of the individuals amongst other causes. Finally, ‘Sickness’ (26 percent)‘Poverty’ (24 percent), and ‘Motor accident’ (16 percent), topped the list of the leading causes of death in Nigeria among other causes. These findings have clear implications for reforms in the public health, poverty alleviation and transportation sectors of the country.

Survey Methods

The opinion poll was conducted in the week 16th March 2015. It involved telephone interviews of a random nationwide sample. 1,000 randomly selected phone-owning Nigerians aged 18 years and above, representing the six geopolitical zones in the country, were interviewed. With a sample of this size, we can say with 95% confidence that the results obtained are statistically precise – within a range of plus or minus 3%. NOIPolls Limited, No1 for country specific polling services in West Africa, which works in technical partnership with the Gallup Organisation (USA), to conduct periodic opinion polls and studies on various socio-economic and political issues in Nigeria. More information is available at


This press release has been produced by NOIPolls Limited to provide information on all issues which form the subject matter of the document. Kindly note that while we are willing to share results from our polls with the general public, we only request that NOIPolls be acknowledged as author whenever and wherever our poll results are used, cited or published.

NOIPolls hereby certifies that all the views expressed in this document accurately reflect its views of respondents surveyed for the poll, and background information is based on information from various sources that it believes are reliable; however, no representation is made that it is accurate or complete. Whilst reasonable care has been taken in preparing this document, no responsibility or liability is accepted for errors or fact or for any views expressed herein by NOIPolls for actions taken as a result of information provided in this report. Any ratings, forecasts, estimates, opinions or views herein constitute a judgment as at the date of this document. If the date of this document is not current, the views and content may not reflect NOIPolls’ current findings and/or thinking.

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