Thrombosis is a common pathology underlying ischemic heart disease, ischemic stroke, and venous thromboembolism (VTE). The Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors (GBD) Study 2010 documented that ischemic heart disease and stroke collectively caused one in four deaths worldwide. GBD 2010 did not report data for VTE as a cause of death and disability. We performed a systematic review of the literature on the global disease burden caused by VTE in low-income, middle-income and high-income countries. Studies from western Europe, North America, Australia and southern Latin America (Argentina) yielded consistent results, with annual incidence rates ranging from 0.75 to 2.69 per 1000 individuals in the population. The incidence increased to between 2 and 7 per 1000 among those aged ≥ 70 years. Although the incidence is lower in individuals of Chinese and Korean ethnicity, their disease burden is not low, because of population aging. VTE associated with hospitalization was the leading cause of disability-adjusted life-years (DALYs) lost in low-income and middle-income countries, and the second most common cause in high-income countries, being responsible for more DALYs lost than nosocomial pneumonia, catheter-related bloodstream infections, and adverse drug events. VTE causes a major burden of disease across low-income, middle-income and high-income countries. More detailed data on the global burden of VTE should be obtained to inform policy and resource allocation in health systems, and to evaluate whether improved utilization of preventive measures will reduce the burden.