Study Claims the World’s Population Is Getting Older, Sicker

Jonathan Brady/PA URN:19104218 (Press Association via AP Images)
Jonathan Brady/PA URN:19104218 (Press Association via AP Images)

A new study purports to find that the world’s population is getting sicker despite the longer life spans and higher standards of living being experienced by most of the world’s population.

The new global review of the health of people in the world finds that only 4 percent had no health problems in 2013. But a third of the world’s population—some 2.3 billion people—”had more than five health problems” that same year.

Because people are living longer,“Comorbidity rose substantially with age and in absolute terms from 1990 to 2013,” the report says. The Global Burden of Disease study found that the proportion of healthy years lost to illness has climbed from 21 percent in 1990 to 31 percent today.

The world’s aging population also means that there will be more and more sick people around for others to care for.

British health magazine The Lancet reported that the study released on June 8 reviewed data from 188 countries and looked at more than 300 illnesses and injuries.

The study went on to claim that musculoskeletal problems—such as arthritis, back, or neck pain—and mental health or substance abuse disorders accounted for almost half of all loss of healthy years.

“According to the study,” reported, “one of every 10 people in the world in 2013 suffered from at least one of the following disorders: tooth decay, tension headaches, iron-deficiency anemia, age-linked hearing loss, genital herpes, migraines, intestinal roundworm, and a genetic blood disorder called glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency trait.”

A “startling rise” in cases of diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and arthritis was also discovered.

“Large, preventable causes of health loss, particularly serious musculoskeletal disorders and mental and behavioral disorders, have not received the attention that they deserve,” the study’s authors say. “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.”

Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston, or email the author at


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