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We're living longer - but spend more years in bad health


The study, involving 7,500 older people, has found a huge reliance on grandparents for childcare.

The study, involving 7,500 older people, has found a huge reliance on grandparents for childcare.

Getty Images/Blend Images

The study, involving 7,500 older people, has found a huge reliance on grandparents for childcare.

Irish people are living longer but spending more of their years in ill-health due to conditions such as lower back pain and depression, a major global study reveals today.

Ireland is one of 188 countries in the study which looked at the impact of health problems that are not life-threatening but result in years lived with disability (YLD).

Researchers found that since 1990 in Ireland, diabetes ranks among the leading causes of YLD for men in Ireland, climbing 156pc.

Anxiety disorders, migraine, and hearing loss - some of which is due to age - are among the 10 leading causes of YLD.

Others included asthma and neck pain, the Global Burden of Disease study in the 'Lancet' medical journal revealed. Diabetes and musculoskeletal disorders - which include shoulder injuries and fractures from osteoporosis - take a greater toll on women than men.

Between 1990 and 2013, YLD from diabetes, which is linked to poor lifestyle habits, increased 101pc, while there was a rise of 62pc from other musculoskeletal disorders. Falls were the only condition with no increase.

The study was conducted by an international consortium of researchers working on the Global Burden of Disease project and led by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington.

The findings come from the largest and most detailed analysis to quantify levels, patterns, and trends in ill health and disability around the world between 1990 and 2013.

IHME Director Dr Christopher Murray said: "We need the best available data on conditions that aren't fatal but leave people in poor health.

"We must make evidence-based decisions to help people live longer and healthier lives."

Rates of disability are declining much more slowly than death rates.

He said that as the world's population grows, and the proportion of elderly people increases, the number of people living in sub-optimum health is set to rise rapidly.

Globally, just one in 20 people worldwide had no health problems in 2013, with a third of the world's population - 2.3bn - suffering more than five ailments.

Researchers found that as people aged they experienced a greater number of ailments resulting from non-fatal diseases and injuries.


Many people also suffered from multiple conditions at the same time. The number of people who suffered from 10 or more ailments increased by 52pc.

The study said: "It is not just the elderly who are affected. Although the impact of YLD increases with age, of the 2.3bn people who suffered from more than five ailments, 81pc of them were younger than 65 years old.

A relatively small number of diseases have a massive impact, researchers found.

Just two acute diseases - affecting people for less than three months - caused more than 20bn new cases of disease globally in 2013.

These were upper respiratory infections (18.8 billion) and diarrheal diseases (2.7 billion).

Leading causes of illness among aged

Leading causes of years lost to disability (YLD) in Ireland, both sexes, 2013

  1. Major depressive disorder
  2. Neck pain
  3. Lower back pain
  4. Anxiety disorders
  5. Migraine
  6. Asthma
  7. Falls
  8. Diabetes mellitus
  9. Age-related hearing loss
  10. Musculoskeletal disorders

Leading causes of YLDs in Ireland for men, 2013

  1. Neck pain
  2. Major depressive disorder
  3. Lower back pain
  4. Falls
  5. Diabetes mellitus

Leading causes of YLDS in Ireland for women, 2013

  1. Major depressive disorder
  2. Neck pain
  3. Migraine
  4. Anxiety disorders
  5. Other musculoskeletal disorders

Irish Independent