Disease burden is the impact of a health problem on an area measured by financial cost, mortality, morbidity, or other indicators. It is often quantified in terms of quality-adjusted life years (QALYs) or disability-adjusted life years (DALYs), both of which quantify the number of years lost due to disease. One DALY can be thought of as one year of healthy life lost, and the overall disease burden can be thought of as a measure of the gap between current health status and the ideal health status, where the individual lives to old age free from disease and disability. These measures allow for comparison of disease burden, and have also been used to forecast the possible impacts of health interventions.
The environmental burden of disease is defined as the number of DALYs that can be attributed to environmental factors.
World Health Organization (WHO) has provided a set of detailed guidelines for measuring disease burden at the local or national level.
A related concept used by WHO is years lost due to disability (YLD), which measures the years of what could have been a healthy life that were instead spent in states of less than full health. In 2004, the leading cause of YLD worldwide (i.e. leading to the most years lost) for both men and women was unipolar depression.
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