Global burden of disease study shows mixed picture for UK health

March 11, 2013, University of Manchester

(Medical Xpress)—Life expectancy in the UK has improved over the last 20 years, but levels of ill health have not and the UK is now below average compared with 18 other countries on many important indicators.

These data are revealed by a special analysis of the high profile Global Burden of Disease Study 2010, published in The Lancet. An analysis of the study, which was funded by the , was co-authored by University of Manchester honorary Professor John Newton, Chief Knowledge Officer of Public Health England, and Professor Kevin Fenton, Director of Health and Wellbeing of PHE, among others.

This new body has been established to protect and improve the nation's health and wellbeing, and to reduce inequalities. PHE will take up its full responsibilities on 1 April, 2013.

The report looked at how the health of the UK compares with 14 other EU countries, Australia, Canada, Norway and the United States. These countries were chosen as comparators with a similar or higher level of . Results are presented for 259 diseases and injuries, and 67 risk factors or clusters of risk factors, together with comparable data for years of life lost and disability-adjusted life years between 1990 and 2010.

In the 20 years from 1990 to 2010, life expectancy overall increased by 4.2 years in the UK to 79.9 years. However, improvements in mortality have been very small for some age groups and the UK has performed poorly compared with other countries. Also, some specific causes of death show marked increases, such as Alzheimer's disease, cirrhosis of the liver, and drug use disorders. The best results are for where the UK has seen the largest fall in mortality of any of the 19 countries over the period.

Although the overall picture is one of improvement, there is considerable cause for concern in these figures. has hardly changed in the UK for both men and women in the 20-54 year old age group. The leading causes of death in this group are heart disease and self-harm, but also liver disease, breast cancer and road injury. The number of years of life lost (a measure of the extent of premature mortality) has actually increased in this age group for liver disease (cirrhosis), drug-use disorders and alcohol, cancelling out the benefit of substantial improvements in most cancers and in road deaths.

Professor John Newton, who is honorary Professor of Public Health and Epidemiology at the University of Manchester, said: "The GBD study only looked at figures for the whole country but within the UK we know we have areas such as the South East and South West that achieve results as good as any of these countries. But there are also areas such as the North West which do as badly as the worst and this is completely unacceptable.

"We should be proud that life expectancy in the UK has increased as much as it has since 1990, but we need to make sure that these extra years are healthy ones. As a society we must look after our vulnerable people better. Poor mental health causes an enormous and increasing burden of disability as does the pain and disability of arthritis, and loss of independence due to poor sight, hearing and incontinence.

"Despite some enviable recent success, for example on smoking, we in the UK need to take a hard look at what can be done to help people in the UK achieve the levels of already enjoyed by other some countries. Central and Local Government, charities, employers and retail businesses all have a part to play."

Explore further: Study reveals UK's declining health performance compared to other high income countries over past 20 years

More information: … 3%2960355-4/abstract

Related Stories

Study reveals UK's declining health performance compared to other high income countries over past 20 years

March 4, 2013
Six decades of universal free health care, the introduction of widespread public health initiatives (e.g., tobacco control, cancer screening, and immunization), and substantial increases in health expenditure have failed ...

We're living longer but with more disability

December 14, 2012
The Global Burden of Disease Study 2010 (GBD 2010), has found people around the world are living longer but often with many years of compromised health.

New data show countries around the world grappling with changing health challenges

March 4, 2013
Alzheimer's disease is the fastest growing threat to health in the US. HIV/AIDS and alcohol are severely eroding the health of Russians. Violence is claiming the lives of young men in large swaths of Latin America, constituting ...

World population gains more than a decade's life expectancy since 1970

December 13, 2012
In the first Global Burden of Disease Study 2010 paper, published in The Lancet, the authors present new estimates of life expectancy for the last four decades in 187 different countries. While overall life expectancy is ...

Study finds years living with disease, injury increasing globally

December 13, 2012
No matter where they live, how much education they have, or what their incomes are, people have very similar perceptions on the impact of diseases and injuries.

Recommended for you

Americans are getting more sleep

January 19, 2018
Although more than one in three Americans still don't get enough sleep, a new analysis shows first signs of success in the fight for more shut eye. According to data from 181,335 respondents aged 15 and older who participated ...

Wine is good for you—to a point

January 18, 2018
The Mediterranean diet has become synonymous with healthy eating, but there's one thing in it that stands out: It's cool to drink wine.

Sleep better, lose weight?

January 17, 2018
(HealthDay)—Sleeplessness could cost you when it's time to stand on your bathroom scale, a new British study suggests.

Who uses phone apps to track sleep habits? Mostly the healthy and wealthy in US

January 16, 2018
The profile of most Americans who use popular mobile phone apps that track sleep habits is that they are relatively affluent, claim to eat well, and say they are in good health, even if some of them tend to smoke.

Improvements in mortality rates are slowed by rise in obesity in the United States

January 15, 2018
With countless medical advances and efforts to curb smoking, one might expect that life expectancy in the United States would improve. Yet according to recent studies, there's been a reduction in the rate of improvement in ...

Can muesli help against arthritis?

January 15, 2018
It is well known that healthy eating increases a general sense of wellbeing. Researchers at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) have now discovered that a fibre-rich diet can have a positive influence ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.