Assessing the burden of disease in the United States using disability-adjusted life years

Am J Prev Med. 2005 Jun;28(5):415-23. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2005.02.009.


Objectives: Burden of disease studies have been implemented in many countries using the disability-adjusted life year (DALY) to assess major health problems.

Methods: We applied methods developed by the World Bank and World Health Organization (WHO) to data specific to the United States to compute DALYs. We compared the results of this analysis to international estimates published by WHO for developed and developing regions of the world.

Results: In the mid-1990s, the leading sources of premature death and disability in the United States, as measured by DALYs, were cardiovascular conditions, breast and lung cancers, depression, osteoarthritis, diabetes mellitus, and alcohol use and abuse. In addition, motor vehicle-related injuries and the HIV epidemic exacted a substantial toll on the health status of the U.S. population, particularly among racial/ethnic minorities. The major sources of death and disability in these latter populations were more similar to patterns of burden in developing rather than developed countries.

Conclusions: This analysis provides the first detailed, comprehensive estimates using DALYs of the fatal and nonfatal conditions that exact large health burdens in the United States.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cost of Illness*
  • Developing Countries*
  • Disabled Persons* / classification
  • Disabled Persons* / statistics & numerical data
  • Ethnicity
  • Female
  • Humans
  • International Classification of Diseases
  • Male
  • Mortality*
  • Quality-Adjusted Life Years*
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • United States