95% of world's population is "unhealthy"

A new study shows that 95% of the world's population has at least 1 or more health condition. Researchers deemed 1 in 20 people worldwide are deemed unhealthy in some form or another.

Analysis from 2013 Global Burden of Disease study found a large-scale inventory of global illness levels and in a study published in The Lancet.

Study examined and evaluated chronic and acute illnesses and injury across 188 countries from 1990 to 2013. Analyzed over 35,000 sources of data. Biggest and most detailed investigation yet of global patterns of illness and how they’ve changed between 1990-2013.


Researchers used tool known as “Years Lived with Disability (YLD).

Measures impact of health problems impairing mobility, hearing, or vision or those causing some kind of pain:

  • 1/3 of people have chronic or acute illnesses
  • Most common conditions
  • Lower back pain
  • Depression
  • Age-related hearing loss
  • Low back pain and depression were top two major health problems in Australia
  • Study found rates of disability are rising as people live longer and experience more illness
  • Diabetes has increased 43% worldwide over past 23 years
  • Death rates have only increased 9%
  • 2.3 billion people were found to have more than 5 conditions

Data suggest that health officials need to do more than focus solely on death rates because death rates don’t tell the full story of global health. Mortality is declining faster than non-fatal disease and injury prevalence is further evidence of important of paying attention to the rising health loss from these leading causes of disability, not simply focusing on reducing mortality.

As world population grows, decline in death rates and number of older individuals rise. Large preventable diseases like musculoskeletal disorders and mental and behavioral disorders have not received due attention from government and public health officials

Key findings include:

  1. In 2013, low back pain and major depression ranked among the top ten greatest contributors to disability in every country, causing more health loss than diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and asthma combined.
  2. 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%) of children aged 0-4 years in developed countries had no disorder compared with just 0·03% of adults older than 80 years. Furthermore, the number of individuals with more than ten disorders increased by 52% between 1990 and 2013.
  3. Eight causes of chronic disorders -- mostly non-communicable diseases -- affected more than 10% of the world population in 2013
    1.  cavities in permanent teeth (2·4 billion)
    2. tension-type headaches (1·6 billion)
    3. iron-deficiency anemia (1·2 billion)
    4. glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency trait (1·18 billion)
    5. age-related hearing loss (1·23 billion), genital herpes (1·12 billion), migraine (850 million), and ascariasis (800 million; giant intestinal roundworm).

The number of years lived with disability increased over the last 23 years due to population growth and aging (537·6 million to 764·8 million), while the rate (age-standardised per 1000 population) barely declined between 1990 and 2013 (115 per 1000 people to 110 per 1000 people).

The main drivers of increases in the number of years lived with disability were musculoskeletal, mental, and substance abuse disorders, neurological disorders, and chronic respiratory conditions. HIV/AIDS was a key driver of rising numbers of years lived with disability in sub-Saharan Africa.

There has also been a startling increase in the health loss associated with diabetes (increase of 136%), Alzheimer's disease (92% increase), medication overuse headache (120% increase), and osteoarthritis (75% increase).

In central Europe, falls cause a disproportionate amount of disability and health burden, ranking as the second leading cause of disability in 11 of 13 countries. In many Caribbean nations anxiety disorders ranked more highly, and diabetes was the third greatest contributor to disability in Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, and Venezuela. Disability from past war and conflict was the leading contributor to health loss in Cambodia, Nicaragua, Rwanda, and ranked second in Vietnam.

According to Professor Vos, "Large, preventable causes of health loss, particularly serious musculoskeletal disorders and mental and behavioural disorders, have not received the attention that they deserve. Addressing these issues will require a shift in health priorities around the world, not just to keep people alive into old age, but also to keep them healthy."