The Global Burden of Diseases (GBD) Study 2015 has drawn attention to the substantial and increasing health burden of neurological diseases worldwide.1 In order to adjust public health and disease prevention strategies, it is of great importance to decipher the regional and national variations of this burden. Notably, the EU population is currently older than the global population and the World Health Organization (WHO) European region population, which means that it could be particularly affected by age-related neurological disorders.2 Therefore, the authors of a newly published analysis, including Günther Deuschl (Department of Neurology, Universitätsklinikum Schleswig-Holstein, Germany), determined the burden of neurological disorders in the EU and the WHO European region between 1990 and 2017.2
Neurological disorders in the EU and the WHO European region
The study team calculated the burden of neurological disorders for 2017 in terms of incidence, prevalence, mortality, disability-adjusted life years (DALYs), years of life lost, and years lived with disability both in the EU (total population=512.4 million) and the WHO European region (total population=925.6 million).2 The same methodological basis as the one used in the GDB study was applied. Included neurological disorders were Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, epilepsy, headache, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, brain cancer, motor neuron diseases, neuroinfectious diseases and stroke.
Neurological disorders the third most common cause of disability and premature death in EU
The collected data showed that in 2017, the total number of DALYs attributable to one of the above-mentioned neurological disorders was 21 million in the EU region, while it was 41.1 million in the WHO European region. The total number of attributable deaths was 1.1 and 1.97 million, respectively. In the EU, neurological disorders represented 13.3% of total DALYs, with stroke, dementias and headache being the most represented ones. 19.5% of total deaths were attributed to neurological disorders. This made them the third most common cause of disability and premature death in the EU, following cardiovascular diseases and cancers in the list. The researchers found a substantial increase in neurodegenerative disease burden over the 27 years. It was seen that the burden of neurological disorders was more prevalent in men than in women, and highest in people 80–84 years old. Overall, substantial differences were seen across countries and regions in terms of neurological disease burden.
Call to action
The authors state that the large burden of neurological disorders in Europe demonstrated by their analysis prompts a call to action. It will be a major challenge for countries to fight the increasing number of neurological diseases, and the considerable differences between regions and countries require strategic planning. The authors further suggest that health authorities for prevention and care in Europe could use specific information from their analysis in order to establish customized approaches in terms of health service development and resource allocation.