Burden of Disease

OWID presents work from many different people and organizations. When citing this entry, please also cite the original data source. This entry can be cited as:

Max Roser (2016) – ‘Burden of Disease’. Published online at OurWorldInData.org. Retrieved from: https://ourworldindata.org/burden-of-disease/ [Online Resource]


# Empirical View

# The global burden of disease is huge

How many healthy life years are lost due to diseases, deaths, and injuries? It is a daring question, but we actually do have a good answer to it. The Global Burden of Disease estimated that in 2012 2.8 billion healthy live years were lost to premature death or compromised by disability. This means that about 39% of potential human life and flourishing is not realized. The toll of communicable diseases alone – which are easier to prevent – is 13% of potential human life.1

The visualisation below shows the Disability Adjusted Life Years (DALYs) lost per 100,000.

# Communicable diseases are a high burden of disease in poor countries

The disease burden due to communicable diseases alone is shown in the following map. Communicable diseases are often curable and better public health can reduce the burden considerably yet many poor countries still suffer from the burden of these diseases.

# There is much cross-country heterogeneity in terms of conditions contributing towards the burden of disease

The following visualization – produced by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) – presents a breakdown of burden-of-disease estimates for selected countries. A dedicated IHME website provides a fascinating interactive tool to explore all available data on burden of disease worldwide.

As the chart below shows, different conditions contribute differently to health outcomes depending on the specific country and gender. While in Angola there are clear challenges relating to HIV/AIDS, diarrhoea and malaria, in countries such as the US or Germany, the biggest challenges relate to cardiovascular and respiratory disease and cancer (the main cause of ‘neoplasms’).

Burden of disease by cause, country, and gender (2013 estimates) – produced by IHME Viz Hub


# Correlates, Determinants, & Consequences


The health burden due to communicable diseases vs GDP per capita. GDP per capita is adjusted for price differences between countries to be comparable.

# Measurement, Data Quality & Definitions


# Data Sources

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