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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Washington Study Finds Nonfatal Diseases and Injuries Taking Bigger Toll Globally

Nonfatal injuries and diseases – from diabetes and low back pain to migraine headaches and major depressive disorders – are taking an increased toll on health due to population growth and aging, according to a new study from the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington.

Theo Vos
[Photo: Dr. Theo Vos]

“Many countries around the world have made great progress in addressing fatal diseases, but nonfatal illnesses post the next major threat in terms of disease burden,” said lead author Dr. Theo Vos, professor of global health in the Schools of Public Health and Medicine. “This need to meet the challenge of nonfatal diseases and injuries only becomes more urgent as the population increases and people live longer.”

The study, conducted by a consortium of international researchers working on the Global Burden of Disease project, was published in The Lancet and includes an analysis of 301 diseases and injuries in 188 countries. Researchers used a measurement known as years lived with disability, or YLDs, to quantify the impact of health problems that aren’t fatal.

The study found that YLDs increased in 139 of 188 countries between 1990 and 2013. Two acute diseases – upper respiratory infections and diarrheal diseases – caused more than 20 billion new cases of disease globally in 2013. Eight causes of chronic disease, including tension-type headaches and iron-deficiency anemia, affected more than 10 percent of the world’s population.

“What ails you isn’t necessarily what kills you,” said Dr. Christopher Murray, director of the Institute and professor of global health and adjunct professor of health services. “As nonfatal illnesses and related ailments affect more people of all ages, countries must look closely at health policies and spending to target these conditions.”