Study: 95% of the World’s Population Is Sick!

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Medical EmergencyPeople are certainly living longer, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re living healthier. In fact, despite an increasing number of health programs for older adults and young people alike, there are still a shocking number of people around the world whose health and wellness is still on the line.

Findings from the largest study to date about global health and wellness trends were recently published in the journal The Lancet, and the numbers are startling, to say the least. Researchers used over 35,000 different sources to calculate the estimated number of injury and disease cases in 188 countries between 1990 and 2013.

What the Numbers Show

The in-depth analysis enabled them to estimate the incidence and approximate prevalence for over 300 diseases, as well as the estimated number of healthy years that individuals lost as a result of illness. The findings from all of this collected data revealed that in 2013, only 4.4% of people around the world had absolutely no health issues—this means that a whopping 95% of the global population has suffered at least one health and wellness issue. Although health issues can vary from chronic to acute, 95% is still a huge number when you put it into perspective. What’s worse is that over the course of the 23-year research study, the number of individuals with 10 or more health problems increased by 52%, so the problem has gotten worse over the years.

The study also shed light on the need for more health programs for older adults, because it showed that the chance of having multiple health and wellness problems increases with age. Looking at developed countries in 2013, 36% of children were illness-free, compared to only 0.03% of adults over the age of 80. It makes sense—older adults are more prone to developing disease and illness because, aside from the fact that they’ve just been around longer, their bodies aren’t as well equipped anymore to fight off diseases, illnesses, and injuries. This emphasizes the need to develop strong health programs for older adults that can educate them on how to stay active, eat well, and maintain their health and wellness well into old age.

The New Threat to Health and Wellness

A lot has been done to address fatal diseases, and the death rate has decreased over the years, which is good to see; however, the rise in non-fatal illnesses and conditions are continuing to take a rising toll on our population. According to data collected from 2013, the leading causes of health and wellness loss around the globe were musculoskeletal disorders (e.g. lower back pain, arthritis), mental health and substance abuse (e.g. depression, anxiety, alcoholism), and chronic respiratory issues. Interestingly, major depression and lower back pain, the two leading causes globally for both men and women, jumped over 50% since 1990.

For women around the world in 2013, the leading burdens on health and wellness, or “years lived with disability,” (after back pain and depression) were, in order from highest number of cases to lowest:

• Iron-deficiency anemia
• Neck pains
• Migraines
• Musculoskeletal disorders
• Anxiety
• Hearing loss
• Diabetes
• Chronic/obstructive pulmonary disease

95% of the World's Population Is SickThe following were the most common health and wellness burdens for men (after back pain and depression), in order from highest to lowest:

• Hearing loss
• Iron-deficiency anemia
• Diabetes
• Neck pains
• Chronic/obstructive pulmonary disease
• Migraines
• Anxiety
• Schizophrenia

How Can Health Programs for Older Adults Help?

The researchers behind this study point out that it isn’t enough to simply focus on mortality rates to determine the effects and prevalence of disease and injury, because the prevalence of non-fatal diseases and injuries isn’t dropping as quickly as they should. As Dr. Christopher Murray, Director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation pointed out, “What ails you isn’t necessarily what kills you.”

What this means is that there needs to be a shift in focus when it comes to health and wellness. Although the awareness, prevention, and treatment of fatal diseases should not be negated or dismissed, health programs for older adults also need to focus on these non-fatal conditions that are continuing to plague aging individuals around the globe. Individuals and families need to be made aware of the impact that these often dismissed conditions can have on health and wellness. A lot of people don’t realize the severity of issues like depression, hearing loss, or an iron deficiency, because they often get dismissed as just being minor and temporary. But by using health programs for older adults to educate families and aging individuals, we can hopefully improve not only health and wellness, but also the overall quality of life for a globally aging population.

Sources:

“As death rates drop, nonfatal diseases and injuries take a bigger toll on health globally,” Medical News Today web site, June 9, 2015; http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/295076.php.

Whiteman, H., “More than 95% of the global population has at least one health problem, study finds,” Medical News Today web site, June 9, 2015; http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/295027.php.


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