Neurological Conditions Now Leading Cause of Ill Health and Disability Worldwide

A new study published by the Lancet Neurology has found that neurological conditions are the leading cause of ill health and disability worldwide (measured in disability-adjusted life years – DALYs), with over 3 billion people affected. These conditions, encompassing 43% of the global population, lead to 11 million deaths annually. Since 1990, there’s been an 18% rise in DALYs attributed to these conditions. The ten conditions that accounted for the greatest nervous system DALYs in 2021 were stroke, neonatal encephalopathy, migraine, Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, diabetic neuropathy, meningitis, epilepsy, neurological complications due to preterm birth, autism spectrum disorder, and nervous system cancer.

The below graph shows the ranking of age-standardised DALY rates for all conditions with neurological health loss by GBD region in 2021:

Commenting on these results, Astri Arnesen, President of the European Federation of Neurological Associations (EFNA) said

“Findings from The Lancet study emphasise the critical importance of recognising the impact and prevalence of neurological conditions. This research underscores the urgent need for increased awareness, resources, and collaborative efforts so that we may work together to address the rapidly increasing burden of these conditions in Europe and beyond.”

Through its EU elections manifesto EFNA is advocating for a well-resourced EU Joint Action on Neurological Conditions and Brain Health as well as for a European Plan to Promote Brain Health, elevating brain as our most valuable asset.

Coinciding with the release of the Lancet Neurology study, the Lancet Global Public Health issued a related paper, National plans and awareness campaigns as priorities for achieving global brain health.’ This paper, a collaborative effort initiated by EFNA and the OneNeurology global partnership, underscores the urgency of implementing the WHO’s Intersectoral Global Action Plan on Epilepsy and Other Neurological Disorders 2022–2031 (IGAP). It calls for the swift enactment of the plan to mitigate the impact of neurological disorders, emphasising the need for updated national policies, awareness campaigns, and advocacy programs to advance global brain health, underpinned by six strategic pillars.