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What makes us sick, in one chart


(The Lancet)

All around the world, we're living longer. "By 2020, for the first time in history, the number of people aged 60 years and older will outnumber children younger than five years," according to a new series on aging in the medical journal The Lancet.

But even as we life expectancy rises, we're still getting sick. You can see what makes us sick as we age in the chart above, measured by DALYs or disease-adjusted life years. (DALYs represent disease burden in a population by the number of years of healthy life lost to illness.)

The leading contributors to disease in people over the age of 60 in the developed and developing worlds are similar: cardiovascular and circulatory diseases, cancer, chronic respiratory disease, musculoskeletal disorders (such as pain pain, hernia, and carpel tunnel syndrome), and mental and neurological disorders (such as depression and Alzheimer's).

But you'll notice that chronic respiratory infections and cardiovascular diseases still disproportionately affect those in poorer countries. According to the Lancet, this gap can be explained by the success of strategies and programs to reduce tobacco consumption and high-blood pressure in richer countries, which haven't yet made headway in the developing world.