Global epidemiology of atrial fibrillation: An increasing epidemic and public health challenge

Int J Stroke. 2021 Feb;16(2):217-221. doi: 10.1177/1747493019897870. Epub 2020 Jan 19.


Background: Atrial fibrillation is the most frequent cardiac arrhythmia. It has been estimated that 6-12 million people worldwide will suffer this condition in the US by 2050 and 17.9 million people in Europe by 2060. Atrial fibrillation is a major risk factor for ischemic stroke and provokes important economic burden along with significant morbidity and mortality.

Aim: We provide here comprehensive and updated statistics on worldwide epidemiology of atrial fibrillation.

Methods: An electronic search was conducted for atrial fibrillation. The epidemiologic information was retrieved from the Global Health Data Exchange database, which is regarded as one of the most comprehensive worldwide catalogs of surveys, censuses, vital statistics, and other health-related data.

Results: A total of 3.046 million new cases of atrial fibrillation worldwide were registered in the database during 2017. The estimated incidence rate for 2017 (403/millions inhabitants) was 31% higher than the corresponding incidence in 1997. The worldwide prevalence of atrial fibrillation is 37,574 million cases (0.51% of worldwide population), increased also by 33% during the last 20 years. The highest burden is seen in countries with high socio-demographic index, though the largest recent increased occurred in middle socio-demographic index countries. Future projections suggest that absolute atrial fibrillation burden may increase by >60% in 2050.

Conclusions: Our analyses suggest that atrial fibrillation incidence and prevalence have increased over the last 20 years and will continue to increase over the next 30 years, especially in countries with middle socio-demographic index, becoming one of the largest epidemics and public health challenges.

Keywords: Atrial fibrillation; epidemiology; morbidity; mortality; prevention; screening.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Atrial Fibrillation* / epidemiology
  • Epidemics*
  • Global Health
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Prevalence
  • Public Health
  • Stroke* / epidemiology