Quantifying the future impact of disease on society: life table-based measures of potential life lost

Am J Public Health. 1997 Sep;87(9):1456-60. doi: 10.2105/ajph.87.9.1456.


Objectives: Quantifying health status in human populations by means of an index such as "years of potential life lost" has recently received attention. However, such an index, being cross-sectional in nature, only measures the current burden to society resulting from a specific cause of death.

Methods: The author proposes new indices of potential life lost to quantify future impacts on society of particular causes of death. These indices also properly reflect the effects of competing risks. The computation is simple, requiring no more than a standard life-table calculation. Real-world as well as hypothetical data are used to illustrate the method.

Results: The new indices convey valuable health status information about a population that is not revealed by traditional indices.

Conclusions: The new indices are promising alternatives as measures of future potential life lost.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Diabetes Mellitus / mortality
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Life Tables*
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Statistical
  • Mortality*
  • Taiwan
  • Value of Life