The annually-released mortality report, which contains data from 2009, further indicates that mortality in the Jewish state – 479 deaths per 100,000 people – was lower that year than in most countries examined, including the United States and the United Kingdom.
But while death rates in most causes, including cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer's, accidents and suicide, was generally lower in Israel than elsewhere, kidney disease, sepsis and hypertension mortality was twice as high as in other countries.
"About half of the causes of death are preventable," said Professor Itamar Grotto, the director of Public Services in the Health Ministry. "The primary factor that can be eliminated is smoking, which causes not only cancer but other common illnesses, including heart and blood vessel disease."
He also listed lack of exercise, excessive consumption of sodium and excessive weight gain as the prominent factors that lead to death-causing illnesses.
"I see good news in the fact that half of the causes of death are in our control," he said. "It means that we can do something about it. Good doctors are not enough. We must maintain a healthy lifestyle."
Car crashes, suicide
Overall, a quarter of deaths that occurred in 2009 were caused by cancer, while 17.6% were caused by heart disease. Diabetes was found to be the third-leading cause of death with 6.2%, followed by brain blood vessel disease (5.5%) and kidney disease (4%).
But within the 15-24 age group, car accidents were the leading cause of death, followed by suicide. Cancer ranks third on the list, and murder ranks fourth. War, terrorism and poisoning, primarily from alcohol and drugs, were also prominent causes of death within the group.
Despite the disconcerting data, the Health Ministry found a downward trend in mortality in most causes of death.
"We see an improvement in many areas," said Dr. Arnon Ofek, who heads the Health Ministry's Medical Administration. "Life expectancy is growing, infant mortality is down and a significant decrease has registered in deaths caused by heart disease."
But he noted that continued efforts to improve the healthcare system are imperative.
"The system has been neglected in recent years, causing a drop in the number of hospital beds and a shortage in medical personnel," he said. "It must remind us that we need to significantly invest in the healthcare system."