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September 15, 2015
England has the potential to have the lowest disease burden in the world

For the first time, a new PHE led study published in The Lancet ranks the diseases and risk factors that cause death and disability in England compared with other high-income countries, revealing the nation's potential to have the lowest total disease burden (years of life lost to death and lived with disability) in the world.

Between 1990 and 2013, life expectancy in England increased by 5.4 years - one of the biggest increases compared with the other EU15+* countries (from 75.9 years in 1990 to 81.3 years in 2013). This was mainly because of falls in the death rate from cardiovascular disease, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and some cancers (with progress partly offset by increased death rates from liver disease). Known potentially preventable risk factors taken together explain 40% of ill health in England. If you examine the impact of specific risks on the overall disease burden, unhealthy diet and tobacco are the two largest contributors** (diet accounts for 10.8% of total disease burden and tobacco 10.7%).

Improvements in life expectancy haven't been matched by improvements in levels of ill-health. So, as a population we're living longer but spending more years in ill-health, often with a combination of conditions, some of which would have previously been fatal.

The full article is also available from Prof. Simon Hay's website, one of the paper's authors:

Changes in health in England, with analysis by English regions and areas of deprivation, 1990-2013: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2013


* First 15 European Union members apart from the UK (Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden), plus Australia, Canada, Norway, and the United States of America [EU15+].
** For women in England, tobacco is now the number one risk factor and has overtaken unhealthy diets and high blood pressure since 1990.