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Study Shows 95% of the World’s Population Has Health Problems

Last updated June 12, 2015

Approved by: Maulik P. Purohit MD MPH

A major “Global Burden of Disease (GBD)” study, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, finds that only 4.3% of the world’s population did not have any health problems.


A major “Global Burden of Disease (GBD)” study, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, finds that only 4.3% of the world’s population did not have any health problems.

The GBD study analyzed data 35,620 sources of information from 188 countries, between the years 1990-2013. The researchers analyzed 301 chronic diseases, health conditions, injuries, etc., and 2337 resultant health consequences that put a burden on health systems around the world.

Significant findings from the study are:

  • Over 95% of the world population has health problems
  • One-third of the world’s population experiences more than five ailments
  • Lost years of healthy life owing to illness rose from 21% in 1990 to 31% in 2013
  • Low back pain, anemia (iron deficiency), neck pain, depression, and hearing loss (old-age) remain at the top and account for nearly half the health loss worldwide
  • In 2013, low back pain and depression were among the top 10 contributors to disability in EVERY country, compared to loss by diabetes, COPD, and asthma combined
  • The eight causes of chronic disorders affecting about 10% of the world population were:
    • Cavities in permanent teeth
    • Tension-type headaches
    • Anemia caused by iron deficiency
    • Glucose-6-phosphate deficiency trait
    • Migraines
    • Hearing loss due to advanced age
    • Ascariasis (intestinal roundworm)
    • Genital Herpes
  • An increase was observed in health loss owing to diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, osteoarthritis, medication overuse, and headache
  • Children (aged 0-4 years) without disorders decreased to 36% in developed countries
  • In central European countries, falls caused a disproportionate amount of health burden
  • In the Caribbean, anxiety disorders topped the list
  • Diabetes was the third highest contributor to health loss in Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, and Venezuela
  • Disability as a result of past war/conflict was responsible for most health loss in Cambodia, Rwanda, and Nicaragua
  • The overall number of “years lived with disability or YLD” increased from 1990 to 2013 and was attributable to population growth and aging; the percentage of population living with disability, however, remained unchanged
  • The YLD increased for musculoskeletal, mental, substance abuse, neurological and chronic respiratory disorders
  • In sub-Saharan Africa, the number of people living with HIV/AIDS increased
  • The rates of YLD decline are slower than mortality rates

One of the authors of the report, Professor Vos, is quoted in the Lancet News Release as saying, “Large, preventable causes of health loss, particularly serious musculoskeletal disorders and mental and behavioral disorders, have not received the attention that they deserve. Addressing these issues will require a shift in health priorities around the world, not just to keep people alive into old age, but also to keep them healthy.”

Written by Mangala Sarkar Ph.D.

References and Information Sources used for the Article:


Reviewed and Approved by a member of the DoveMed Editorial Board
First uploaded: June 12, 2015
Last updated: June 12, 2015