Back and neck pain has biggest health impact on UK patients, study finds

UK patients lost more 'healthy years' of life to neck and back pain than any other condition in 2013, research has shown, but overall life expectancy has increased over the prior eight years.

Back pain: Study found people are living more years with illness and disability (Photo: iStock)
Back pain: Study found people are living more years with illness and disability (Photo: iStock)

Back and neck pain is the most common cause of 'healthy years' lost to disability and ill health in UK patients, followed by coronary heart disease, stroke, COPD and then lung cancer, according to a global study comparing overall life expectancy and healthy life expectancy.

Average life expectancy for UK males has risen from 76.8 in 2005 to 79.1 in 2013 – an increase of 2.3 years – results from the Global Burden of Disease Study in the Lancet show.

At the same time, healthy life expectancy (HALE) – the number of years a person has lived in ‘full health’ without severe impacts arising due to disability or ill health – rose from 66.7 to 68.5.

Life expectancy in UK females had a more modest increase of 1.6 years from 81.2 in 2005 to 82.8 in 2013, suggesting that the gender survival gap may be narrowing. Female HALE rose from 69.2 to 70.6 over the same period.

Quality of life

The results suggest that men and women in the UK live, on average, over a decade of their lives with serious health conditions that affect their quality of life.

The researchers warned that overall life expectancy is increasing at a faster rate than healthy life expectancy.

They said: ‘Healthy life expectancy takes into account not just mortality but also the impact of nonfatal conditions and summarizes years lived with disability and years lost due to premature mortality. The increase in healthy life expectancy has not been as dramatic as the growth of life expectancy, and as a result, people are living more years with illness and disability.’

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