Peo­ple liv­ing longer, sicker

Study shows more bat­tling dis­eases as life ex­pectancy climbs world­wide.

Austin American-Statesman - - THE SECOND FRONT - By maria cheng

LON­DON — Nearly ev­ery­where around the world, peo­ple are liv­ing longer and fewer chil­dren are dy­ing. But in­creas­ingly, peo­ple are grap­pling with the dis­eases and dis­abil­i­ties of mod­ern life, ac­cord­ing to the most ex­pan­sive global look so far at life ex­pectancy and the big­gest health threats.

The last com­pre­hen­sive study was in 1990, and the top health prob­lem then was the death of chil­dren un­der 5 — more than 10 mil­lion each year. Since then, cam­paigns to vac­ci­nate kids against dis­eases like po­lio and measles have re­duced the num­ber of chil­dren dy­ing to about 7 mil­lion.

Mal­nu­tri­tion was once the main health threat for chil­dren. Now, ev­ery­where ex­cept Africa, they are much more likely to overeat than to starve.

With more chil­dren sur­viv­ing, chronic ill­nesses and dis­abil­i­ties that strike later in life are tak­ing a big­ger toll, the re­search said. High blood pres­sure has be­come the lead­ing health risk world­wide, fol­lowed by smok­ing and al­co­hol.

“The big­gest con­trib­u­tor to the global health bur­den isn’t pre­ma­ture (deaths), but chronic dis­eases, in­juries, men­tal health con­di­tions and all the bone and joint dis­eases,” said one of the study lead­ers, Christo­pher Mur­ray, di­rec­tor of the In­sti­tute of Health Met­rics and Eval­u­a­tion at the Univer­sity of Washington.

In devel­oped coun­tries, such con­di­tions now ac­count for more than half of the health prob­lems, fu­eled by an ag­ing pop­u­la­tion. While life ex­pectancy is climb­ing nearly ev­ery­where, so too are the num­ber of years peo­ple will live with things like vi­sion or hear­ing loss and men­tal health is­sues.

The re­search ap­pears in seven pa­pers pub­lished on­line Thurs­day by the jour­nal Lancet. More than 480 re­searchers in 50 coun­tries gath­ered data up to 2010 from sur­veys, cen­suses and past stud­ies. They used sta­tis­ti­cal mod­el­ing to fill in the gaps for coun­tries with lit­tle in­for­ma­tion. The se­ries was mainly paid for by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foun­da­tion.

As in 1990, Ja­pan topped the life ex­pectancy list in 2010, with 79 for men and 86 for women.

In the U.S. that year, life ex­pectancy for men was 76 and for women, 81.

Glob­ally, heart disease and stroke re­main the top killers. Re­flect­ing an older pop­u­la­tion, lung can­cer moved to the fifth cause of death glob­ally, while other can­cers are also in the top 20.

AIDS jumped from the 35th cause of death in 1990 to the sixth lead­ing cause two decades later.

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