Indians spend more time battling ill-health, says study

Research shows that in 2013, migraine, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and hearing loss were among the 10 leading causes of Years Lived with Disability in India

By Kundan Pandey
Published: Monday 08 June 2015


A recent global report shows that Indians are spending more time battling ill-health as non-fatal diseases and injuries such as major depressive disorder, anaemia and low back pain have become more prevalent in recent years.

The study published recently in the medical journal, The Lancet, is the outcome of an analysis of 301 acute and chronic diseases and injuries in 188 countries.

The reports says that Years Lived with Disability (YLDs) makes up a major chunk of health problems that impair an individual's mobility, hearing or vision, or cause pain in some way or the other.

The study was conducted by an international group of researchers working on the Global Burden of Disease project and led by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington.

According to the study, in 2013, migraines, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and hearing loss were among the 10 leading causes of YLDs in India. Other leading causes included neck pain, diabetes and anxiety disorders.

Between 1990 and 2013, YLDs from diabetes increased by 109 per cent, and YLDs from other musculoskeletal disorders increased by 110 per cent. However, YLDs from anaemia decreased by 12 per cent, the report says.

Diabetes YLDs also increased for men in India during the same period, rising to 136 per cent. YLDs from COPD increased by 76 per cent.

“The health of Indians is increasingly threatened by depression, back pain and migraines,” said Vivekanand Jha, executive director, George Institute for Global Health, India, and the study's co-author.

“At the same time, diseases like iron-deficiency anaemia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes and chronic kidney disease are also costing Indians many years of healthy life. It is critical to understand which diseases and injuries are causing disability so that we can effectively allocate resources,” he added.

Worldwide scenario

Between 1990 and 2013, YLDs increased globally from 537.6 million in 1990 to 764.8 million in 2013 for both the sexes. Men and women around the world share the same leading causes of YLDs, with the exception of schizophrenia as a leading cause of YLDs for men and musculoskeletal as a leading cause of YLDs for women.

Musculoskeletal disorders, mental disorder, substance-related disorders, neurological disorders and chronic respiratory conditions were the main drivers of YLDs in 2013. The disease burden of both low back pain and depression have increased more than 50 per cent since 1990.  

The number of people who suffered from 10 or more ailments increased by 52 per cent globally. It is not just the elderly who are affected by YLDs. Although the impact of YLDs increases with age, of the 2.3 billion people who suffered from more than five ailments worldwide, 81 per cent were below 65 years.

Impact of war on health

In 2013, war and conflict were leading causes of YLDs in several countries like El Salvador, Guatemala, Lebanon, Peru and Syria. In three countries—Cambodia, Nicaragua and Rwanda—war was the top cause of YLDs. Other notable causes of YLDs in different regions included falls (Central Europe), asthma (a top-10 cause of YLDs in many Latin American countries) and opioid dependence (a top-five cause of YLDs in several West Asian countries).

“What ails you isn’t necessarily what kills you,” said IHME Director Christopher Murray. “As non-fatal illnesses and related ailments affect more people of all ages, countries must look closely at health policies and spendings to target these conditions.”


Report: Global, regional, and national incidence, prevalence, and years lived with disability for 301 acute and chronic diseases and injuries in 188 countries, 1990–2013: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2013

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