As lifespans increase, healthspans are decreasing worldwide


Too little exercise and a diet high in sugar-sweetened beverages are part of the reason for a global rise in premature deaths, researchers are warning. — dpa

The number of people in poor health worldwide has climbed by almost 50% since the turn of the millennium, with many at risk of dying prematurely due to being overweight with high blood pressure and blood sugar.

People face “increasing exposure to risk factors”, including “low physical activity, and diet high in sugar-sweetened beverages,” said the United States-based Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) Program in Cardiovascular Health Metrics director Dr Greg Roth.

Dr Roth and fellow researchers found a 49.4% increase in “lost years of healthy life due to poor health and early death”, which they said were “attributable to metabolism-related risk factors”.

The researchers provided “comprehensive estimates of the disease burden of 88 risk factors and their associated health outcomes for 204 countries and territories from 1990 to 2021”, as part of the recently-published Global Burden of Disease study, which was also carried by The Lancet medical journal.

The world’s population grew from 6.15 billion to 7.9 billion over the period.

At the same time, they said there had been “declines in disease burden” related to maternal and child health, unsafe water and sanitation.

In turn, global life expectancies should increase by almost five years by 2050, driven by rises in countries where people live shorter lives on average, compared to wealthier regions, according to the IHME.

“The ongoing shift in disease burden to non-communicable diseases (NCDs) – like cardiovascular diseases, cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and diabetes – and exposure to NCD-associated risk factors – such as obesity, high blood pressure, non-optimal diet and smoking – will have the greatest impact on disease burden of the next generation,” the researchers warned.

Health problems such as obesity, smoking and air pollution “must be addressed via a combination of global health policy efforts and exposure reduction to mitigate health risks and improve population health,” said IHME co-founder Dr Emmanuela Gakidou.

The institute is described on its website as “an independent research organisation at the University of Washington”.

In research published after the IHME’s Global Burden of Disease report, scientists from the University of Oxford and the University of Edinburgh, both in the United Kingdom. recommended “early good blood glucose control” to “minimise the lifetime risk of diabetes-related complications.” – dpa

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