This finding – counter to the prevailing belief that people throughout the world view different health conditions in very different ways depending on their culture or individual circumstances – is part of a collaborative project, the Global Burden of Disease Study 2010 (GBD 2010). GBD 2010, launched by Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH), the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington, and 300 other institutions worldwide, is the single largest and most detailed scientific effort ever conducted to quantify levels and trends in health worldwide.
Comparing healthy life expectancy for 187 countries, in 1990 and 2010, the researchers were able to evaluate major patterns and trends in global health over two decades. They found that life expectancy has increased in 19 of 21 regions around the world, but, although people are living longer, they are spending these later years living with poor health. Healthy life expectancy has increased more slowly than life expectancy over the last 20 years, and substantial differences in healthy life expectancy persist across countries. Gains in healthy life expectancy over the last two decades have been made primarily through reductions in child and adult mortality rather than reductions in years lived with a disability.
Over the last six decades, advances in medicine and public health, improved living standards, rising levels of educational attainment, and declines in fertility have contributed to dramatic reductions in mortality in most regions of the world. With the accompanying trend of people surviving to more advanced ages, there is increased recognition of the need to prioritize healthy aging.