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Disability Cases on the Rise, Despite People Now Living Longer - Report

Disability cases are on the rise, despite people now living longer: This is the conclusion of data collected by the World Health Organization between 2000 and 2019, inclusive.

According to the data, as of 2019, people were living more than 6 years longer than in 2000, with a global average of more than 73 years in 2019 compared to nearly 67 in 2000. 

However, the report notes that on average, only 5 of those additional years were lived in good health.

"Indeed, disability is on the rise. To a large extent, the diseases and health conditions that are causing the most deaths are those that are responsible for the greatest number of healthy life-years lost," WHO says in a statement.

Heart disease, diabetes, stroke, lung cancer, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease were collectively responsible for nearly 100 million additional healthy life-years lost in 2019 compared to 2000.

Physical injury as a cause of disability and death

The finding also indicates that injuries are another major cause of disability and death. 

As per the report, there has been a significant rise in road traffic injuries in the African region since 2000, with an almost 50 percent increase in both death and healthy life-years lost. 

Globally, deaths from road traffic injuries are 75 percent male.

Drug-use as a cause of disability and death

WHO data also reveals that in the Americas, drug use has emerged as a significant contributor to both disability and death. 

"This region is also the only one for which drug use disorder is a top 10 contributor to healthy life-years lost due to premature deaths and disability, while in all other regions, drug use does not make the top 25," WHO says.

Non-infectious diseases - a new challenge

Overall, WHO found that non-infrectious diseases now make up 7 of the world’s top 10 causes of death, an increase from 4 of the 10 leading causes in 2000. This highlights the need for an intensified global focus on preventing and treating cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes, and chronic respiratory diseases, as well as tackling injuries, in all regions of the world, as set out in the agenda for the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

“These new estimates are another reminder that we need to rapidly step up prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of non-communicable diseases,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO.

“They highlight the urgency of drastically improving primary health care equitably and holistically. Strong primary health care is clearly the foundation on which everything rests, from combatting non-communicable diseases to managing a global pandemic.”

According to the survey, heart disease has remained the leading cause of death at the global level for the last 20 years. 

The number of deaths from heart disease increased by more than 2 million since 2000, to nearly 9 million in 2019. 

The report also finds that pneumonia and other lower respiratory infections were the deadliest group of communicable diseases and together ranked as the fourth leading cause of death. 

"However, compared to 2000, lower respiratory infections were claiming fewer lives than in the past, with the global number of deaths decreasing by nearly half a million."

HIV/AIDS dropped from the 8th leading cause of death in 2000 to the 19th in 2019.  WHO says that this reflects on  the success of efforts to prevent infection, test for the virus, and treat the disease over the last two decades." While it remains the fourth leading cause of death in Africa, the number of deaths has dropped by more than half, falling from over 1 million in 2000 to 435 000 in 2019 in Africa."

The data was collected pre-COVID-19. As of December 30th, 2020, the virus has tragically claimed more than 1.79 million lives. 

According to WHO, people living with pre-existing health conditions (such as heart disease, diabetes, and respiratory conditions) are at higher risk of complications and death due to COVID-19.

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