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]

The burden of disease can be measured in Disability Adjusted Life Years (DALYs) lost. DALYs are a standardized metric that allow for direct comparison of burdens of different diseases across countries and over time. Conceptually, one DALY lost is the equivalent of losing one year in good health because of either premature mortality or disability. Assessing health outcomes by both mortality and morbidity provides a more encompassing view on health outcomes than only looking at mortality or life expectancy alone.

# 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 23.5% of potential life years were lost due to premature death in the year 2013. Another 10.7% of potential healthy life years were lost due to disease and disability.

This means that in sum more than a third of potential healthy life years were lost. The global burden of disease was 34.2% in 2013.


# The distribution of the global burden of disease

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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