Facts and figures on worldwide rate and impact of neurological disorders

close up of a world map globe

July 2019: Recent findings indicate that neurological disorders continue to be the leading cause of disability worldwide.

A recent publication in the prominent medical journal Lancet Neurology has reported the global rate of different neurological conditions across the world and the impact they have, both on people living with these conditions and on nations' health services. Anne Rowling Clinic's Professor of Clinical Neurology Rustam Al-Shahi Salman contributed data to the study.

Global healthcare planning

Regular assessment of the global numbers and impact of neurological disorders - in terms of number of deaths and people living with disability - is important to measure progress towards meeting the United Nations Sustainable Development Targets by 2030. It allows country-by-country comparisons and is important for evidence-based healthcare planning, priority setting, and resource allocation. This study was funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The study reports that from 1990-2016, neurological disorders continued to be the leading cause of disability worldwide. Neurological disorders were the underlying cause in 9 million deaths or 16.5% of total global deaths in 2016.

Disability-adjusted life years

The study uses a measure called "disability-adjusted life years" (DALYs) to evaluate the impact of neurological conditions. A DALY corresponds one year "lost" due to ill-health, severe disability or early death.

In 2016, neurological disorders were responsible for 276 million DALYs, comprising 11.6% of DALYs for all diseases worldwide. Neurological disorders were the leading cause of global DALYs in 2016, followed by cardiovascular diseases.

Among the neurological disorder DALYs, stroke was the largest contributor, responsible for 42.2% of these DALYs in 2016. Migraine was the second largest contributor (16.3%) followed by Alzheimer's and other dementias (10.4%).

A disproportionate number of DALYs due to neurological disorders were in low-income and middle-income countries.

Decreasing mortality rate

The proportion of people who died from neurological disorders decreased by 28% from 1990 to 2016. However, because of population increase and ageing, the number of people dying increased by 39% in this same period, and DALYs increased by 15%.

With continuing ageing of populations, the number of people living with neurological conditions is likely to continue increasing, placing pressure on already overstretched health-care services.

Research is needed

As populations are growing and ageing, the study concludes that governments will face increasing demand for treatment and support services for people affected by neurological disorders. They recommend that more research is needed to develop effective prevention and treatment strategies.


Related links

Read the scientific article: Global, regional, and national burden of neurological disorders, 1990-2016. Feigin V et al, 2019 Jun 18 in Lancet Neurology. DOI /10.1016/S1474-4422%2818%2930499-X

Photo credit: Suzy Hazelwood

This article was published on: Tuesday, July 09, 2019