People live longer but sicker worldwide
LONDON - The Associated PressNearly everywhere around the world, people are living longer and fewer children are dying. But increasingly, people are grappling with the diseases and disabilities of modern life, according to the most expansive global look so far at life expectancy and the biggest health threats.
The last comprehensive study was in 1990 and the top health problem then was the death of children under five, more than 10 million each year. Since then, campaigns to vaccinate kids against diseases like polio and measles have reduced the number of children dying to about 7 million.
Malnutrition was once the main health threat for children. Now, everywhere except Africa, they are much more likely to overeat than to starve.
With more children surviving, chronic illnesses and disabilities that strike later in life are taking a bigger toll, the research said. High blood pressure has become the leading health risk worldwide, followed by smoking and alcohol.
“The biggest contributor to the global health burden isn’t premature (deaths), but chronic diseases, injuries, mental health conditions and all the bone and joint diseases,” said one of the study leaders, Christopher Murray, director of the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington.
In developed countries, such conditions now account for more than half of the health problems, fueled by an aging population. While life expectancy is climbing nearly everywhere, so too are the number of years people will live with things like vision or hearing loss and mental health issues like depression.