Natural disasters used to be so much worse


The number of deaths from natural disasters has been steadily declining since the 1920's.


Economist Max Roser tweeted a chart on Friday morning showing this trend, which is based on data from the International Disaster Database. It's one of many trends identified by Roser that show how much the world is improving.

natural disasters are killing fewer people

Max Roser/Oxford Martin Institute

As the chart shows, very few people die from epidemics today compared to the early 1900's, which saw disasters like the 1918 flu pandemic that killed 50 to 100 million. Other outbreaks of diseases like Cholera and Typhus killed hundreds of thousands worldwide between 1900-1950.

Droughts, once the natural disaster that killed the most people, have also become much less deadly. Notably, an estimated three million people died when China suffered one of the worst droughts in history in 1941.


In an increasingly wealthy world, cities have more money to invest in infrastructure and other safety measures. With sturdier buildings, more advanced warning systems, greater access to water and breakthroughs in medicine, more people are surviving fires, earthquakes, droughts and epidemics.

The decline in deaths come even while there has been a steady increase in climate-related natural disasters since the 1970s.

Visit Roser's website to see just how much global living standards have improved.

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