The five conditions causing the greatest disease burden are Back and neck pain, heart disease, diabetes, vision and hearing problems and depression – in that order.
Contrary to what is commonly thought, when considering the many people affected and the duration of suffering, the burden caused on society by back and neck pain is even higher than that of heart disease.
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A new Taub Center study by Liora Bowers and Prof. Dov Chernichovsky examines the years of healthy life in Israel in terms of disease burden, a measure that takes into account both disability/poor functioning and death.
The objective of the indicator is to examine which diseases cause pain and a decrease in the functioning and quality of life of the patient, while at the same time, causing loss of working days or decrease in labor productivity.
According to the research, in 2015 the life expectancy in Israel stood at 82.1 years, placing Israel ninth globally, one of the highest in the world. It is represents a fall from the country’s fifth place ranking in 2013. The question raised: Is that guarantee regarding quality of life?
Some major findings from the study:
- A baby born in Israel today can expect to live 71.7 years in good health – a figure that is about a decade less than total life expectancy (82.1 years). Furthermore, healthy life expectancy is growing at a slower rate than total life expectancy.
- Disease burden from heart disease and lung cancer are notably lower than in other countries and the burden of heart disease and stroke have decreased by a remarkable 58% in the last 25 years.
- On the other hand, obesity and high sugar consumption are larger risk factors in Israel than in other countries, particularly among children.
- Diabetes is responsible for nearly 90% more disease burden in Israel than in Europe, and its prevalence among the poor is substantially higher than that among higher-income individuals.
The study show that there has been a slower rise in the number of years lived in full health and functioning. slightly lower than that of other countries known for their longevity.
Liora Bowers noted that “the burden of heart disease and stroke decreased significantly (58 percent) since 1990, as part of a known international phenomenon attributed to better detection and treatment, and the development of new medications effective at lowering cholesterol and blood pressure. On the other hand, an increase in body mass index (BMI) and in diabetes rates has had the opposite effect, and mitigated the reduction in heart disease that might have otherwise been seen.”
Heart disease, kidney disease, stroke and diabetes are strongly affected by diet. Although Israelis includes high consumption of vegetables, fruits and legumes which has proven health benefits, Israelis also consume relatively high amounts of sugar, and not enough whole grains. Almost half of Israeli children drink sugar-sweetened beverages every day, rates that are even higher than in the United States.
High blood sugar levels are the most significant risk factor for disease burden in Israel and are responsible for about 61% more disease burden than in Europe. Obesity is also a major problem in Israel (particularly among the country’s children) and causes about 21% greater disease burden here than in Europe.
Compared to Europeans, Israelis today suffer more from diabetes, kidney disease, anemia, birth defects, and depression, and the health system is poised to face higher burden from cancer, heart disease and stroke, dementia and mental illness
In conclusion, Bowers states, “The common link across many of the leading health problems is lifestyle. Ranging from back pain to diabetes to depression, the main way to ensure a healthier aging population down the road is to focus on prevention efforts, particularly on the young and those of lower socioeconomic status.”