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As global life expectancy rises, so do chronic diseases like cancer and diabetes

Published on 14/12/2012

People around the world are living longer than ever before, but spending more of their later life in poor health, according to a report published on Thursday.

Tobacco use, including passive smoking, accounted for 6.3 million deaths in 2010

Deaths from malnutrition and infectious diseases have declined sharply since 1990, thanks to improvements in sanitation, access to food and medical services throughout the developing world. Malnutrition, the number one risk factor for death in 1990, has fallen to number eight.

But with much of the world’s population now living into old age, chronic diseases like cancer and diabetes now account for around two out of every three deaths globally.

The Global Burden of Disease Study, published in a special edition of The Lancet, is the collective work of nearly 500 authors from 50 countries. It looks at changes in global life expectancy and causes of death between 1990 and 2010.

The study found a global rise in life expectancy of about five years since 1990, with the average boy born in 2010 now living until 67.5 and the average girl to 73.3. People in the UK are also living longer than ever before, with male life expectancy now 77.8 and female life expectancy 81.9.

But as we survive for longer, more of us end up living with poor health. Josh Salomon from the Harvard School of Public Health, a study partner, said:

“Over the last 20 years, globally, we've added about five years to life expectancy, but only about four years to healthy life expectancy.”

The study saw a growing burden of risk factors that lead to chronic diseases in adults, such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes.

High blood pressure is now the number one risk factor for death, having risen from fourth in 1990. It now accounts for nine million deaths every year worldwide.

Tobacco use and alcohol are also having a widespread effect on global health. Tobacco use- including passive smoking- accounted for 6.3 million deaths in 2010, rising from third biggest risk factor to second. Alcohol use rose from sixth position to third, accounting for 4.9 million deaths in 2010.

Obesity is the biggest ‘climber’, rising from tenth biggest risk factor in 1990 to sixth in 2010, and causing more than three million deaths annually.

An unhealthy diet and physical inactivity were collectively responsible for an estimated 12.5 million deaths in 2010.

Kicking bad health habits can greatly decrease a person’s risk of developing chronic diseases like cancer and diabetes, but public health experts warn that it is much harder to get people to change their lifestyle than it is to administer a vaccine that protects children from infectious diseases.

Dr Majid Ezzati, chair of global environmental health at Imperial College London, and one of the lead authors of the report, said: "The good news is there are lots of things we can do to reduce disease risk.”

"To bring down the burden of high blood pressure, we need to regulate the salt content of food, provide easier access to fresh fruits and vegetables, and strengthen primary healthcare services.”

Many private health insurance providers in the UK will reward their customers for living a healthy lifestyle with lower premiums, discounted gym memberships and money off healthy food. For more information speak to one of our advisers or compare quotes online now,

© ActiveQuote Ltd. 2012

Categories:  Health
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