Global Burden of Disease Study 2021 provides insights into the health of New Zealanders

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington has released the findings of the Global Burden of Disease Study 2021. The Study draws on data from 152 countries, including New Zealand, and is the most comprehensive worldwide observational epidemiological study to date.

Results show that globally life expectancy increased between 1990 and 2021 but declined by 1.6 years between 2019 and 2021 (reversing historical trends). However, in 2020, New Zealand was one of 20 countries and territories with negative excess mortality (fewer deaths occurred than the baseline period). In 2021, only New Zealand and Barbados had negative excess mortality.

The 2021 GBD results are similar to the 2019 results, with cancers, cardiovascular diseases, musculoskeletal disorders, and mental disorders estimated to be the top four causes of health loss for New Zealanders (disability-adjusted life-years). The fifth contributor is neurological disorders (moving to fifth from sixth rank, with unintentional injuries moving down to sixth rank).

In 2021 the leading causes of death were cardiovascular diseases, neurological disorders, chronic respiratory diseases, and diabetes and kidney diseases. The 2021 figures show that over a third of health loss was estimated to be due to risk factors, with high BMI, tobacco, high fasting plasma glucose, high blood pressure and dietary risks, within the top five risk factors for all health loss.

‘The Global Burden of Disease Study provides valuable information that we can apply to our day-to-day work and forward planning to reduce the individual impact of physical and mental health issues and wellbeing,’ says Peter Dolan, Group Manager of Evidence, Research and Analytics at the Ministry of Health.

‘A key opportunity to improve health and wellbeing is through prevention. To do this we will continue our strong focus on risk factors for health loss, such as alcohol, tobacco, poor nutrition, and physical inactivity, which are also highlighted in the Global Burden of Disease Study 2021.’

The Global Burden of Disease Study can be found on the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation website. A suite of interactive data visualisation tools can be used to explore the results.

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