Lopez and colleagues saw some gains and setbacks, compared to the study's 1990 findings.
"Worldwide, HIV/AIDS and malaria are large and growing causes of death and disease burden, especially in sub-Saharan Africa," the researchers write, adding that the records show some progress in Africa against measles, acute respiratory infections, and diarrhea.
They also note that countries of the former Soviet Union had "setbacks" in adult deaths during the 1990s. The study doesn't show a reason for that pattern, but the "absence of sustained health monitoring and policies" in those countries may have played a role, the researchers note.
They add that while health records have improved in some parts of the world, some countries have more detailed records than others.