Only one person among every 20 in the world is completely healthy, while the rest live with one or more than one acute or chronic diseases through their lifetime, finds a 23-year-long study.
The researchers found that 2.3 billion people — more than a third of the earth’s population — had at least five health problems in 2013. Over the period of the study, the number of people with 10 or more health problems rose by 52%.
The findings of the study were published in the international journal, The Lancet, on Monday under the Global Burden Disease (GBD) study 1990-2013.
The study looked at 301 diseases in 188 countries and found that people are living longer but spending more time in ill health as the rates of non-fatal diseases and injuries, including diabetes and hearing loss, decline slower than the overall death rates.
The number of people with multiple illnesses increased with age. In 2013, 36% of children in developed countries aged 0-4 years had no illnesses, compared with only 0.03% of adults aged 80 and older.
Also, health problems such as lower back pain, major depressive disorder and neck pain were among the top 10 diseases that contributed to years lived with disability (YLD).
The number of healthy years lost owing to illness increased from 21% in 1990 to 31% in 2013, and the number of YLD for the human race rose from 537.6 million in 1990 to 764.8 million in 2013.
Doctors said that it is lifestyle that’s largely responsible for YLDs.
“Lower back pain and neck pain are essentially a result of our sedentary lifestyle and hours in front of computers. In fact, there are about 10-15% of cases of neck or back pain that are actually a medical condition and not a result of the lifestyle,” said Dr Sanjay Desai, orthopaedic and a joint replacement specialist.
The study also found that musculoskeletal disorders, such as lower back pain and arthritis; mental health issues like anxiety, depression, and substance abuse such as drug and alcohol usage - accounted for almost 50% of all health loss globally.
“If one were to look at it more holistically, most of the diseases are interlinked. Moreover, it is a price we are paying for fast-paced but unbalanced and lopsided development. Depression, substance abuse, alcohol abuse, anxiety are so closely linked. Depression has been a leading cause of YLD for the longest time and yet in our country we don’t acknowledge it,” said Dr Harish Shetty, psychiatrist.