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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Washington Study Highlights Longer Lives, But More Illness and Disability

Global life expectancy increased by 6.2 years from 1990 to 2013, while “healthy life expectancy” has risen by only 5.4 years, according to a new analysis of disease and injury in 188 countries. That means people are living more years with illness and disability, according to the study, published in The Lancet.

Theo Vos
[Photo: Dr. Theo Vos]

“The world has made great progress in health, but now the challenge is to invest in finding more effective ways of preventing or treating the major causes of illness and disability,” said lead author Dr. Theo Vos, professor of global health at the University of Washington School of Public Health.

Healthy life expectancy is a metric that takes into account nonfatal conditions and summarizes years lived with disability and years lost due to premature mortality. The study was conducted by an international consortium of researchers working on the Global Burden of Disease study and led by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington.

Healthy life expectancy in some countries such as Nicaragua and Cambodia rose dramatically (14.7 years and 13.9 years, respectively). Meanwhile, people in Botswana and Belize saw declines of 2 years and 1.3 years, respectively. Some of the leading causes of health loss globally were ischemic heart disease, lower respiratory infections, stroke, low back and neck pain, and road injuries.