Just one in 20 people worldwide (4.3 per cent) had no health problems in 2013, while a third of the world’s population (2.3 billion individuals) have more than five ailments, according to a major new analysis from the Global Burden of Disease Study (GBD) 2013, published in The Lancet.
The study found that between 1990 and 2013 the leading causes of health loss have hardly changed.
Low back pain, depression, iron-deficiency anaemia, neck pain, and age-related hearing loss resulted in the largest overall health loss worldwide in both 1990 and 2013.
In 2013, musculoskeletal disorders (i.e. mainly low back pain, neck pain, and arthritis) and mental and substance abuse disorders (predominantly depression, anxiety, and drug and alcohol use disorders) accounted for almost half of all health loss worldwide.
The research found that, worldwide, the proportion of lost years of healthy life due to illness rose from around a fifth (21 per cent) in 1990 to almost a third (31 per cent) in 2013.
Researchers found that rates of disability are declining much more slowly than death rates. For example, while increases in rates of diabetes have been substantial, rising by around 43 per cent over the past 23 years, death rates from diabetes increased by only 9 per cent.
“The fact that mortality is declining faster than non-fatal disease and injury prevalence is further evidence of the importance of paying attention to the rising health loss from these leading causes of disability, and not simply focusing on reducing mortality,” said Theo Vos, lead author and Professor of Global Health at the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation, University of Washington.
The research also found that worldwide, the number of individuals with several illnesses rapidly increased both with age and in absolute terms between 1990 and 2013.
In 2013, about a third (36 per cent) of children aged 0-4 years in developed countries had no disorder compared with just 0.03 per cent of adults older than 80 years.
Furthermore, the number of individuals with more than 10 disorders increased by 52 per cent between 1990 and 2013.
The GBD 2013 Disease and Injury Incidence and Prevalence Collaborators analysed 35,620 sources of information on disease and injury from 188 countries between 1990 and 2013.
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