Aging, Transition, and Estimating the Global Burden of DiseaseReport as inadecuate

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The World Health Organization-s Global Burden of Disease GBD reports are an important tool for global health policy makers, however the accuracy of estimates for countries undergoing an epidemiologic transition is unclear. We attempted to validate the life table model used to generate estimates for all-cause mortality in developing countries.

Methods and Results

Data were obtained for males and females from the Human Mortality Database for all countries with available data every ten years from 1900 to 2000. These provided inputs for the GBD life table model and served as comparison observed data. Above age sixty model estimates of survival for both sexes differed substantially from those observed. Prior to the year 1960 for males and 1930 for females, estimated survival tended to be greater than observed; following 1960 for both males and females estimated survival tended to be less than observed. Viewing observed and estimated survival separately, observed survival past sixty increased over the years considered. For males, the increase was from a mean sd probability of 0.22 0.06 to 0.46 0.1. For females, the increase was from 0.26 0.06 to 0.65 0.08. By contrast, estimated survival past sixty decreased over the same period. Among males, estimated survival probability declined from 0.54 0.2 to 0.09 0.06. Among females, the decline was from 0.36 0.12 to 0.15 0.08.


These results show that the GBD mortality model did not accurately estimate survival at older ages as developed countries transitioned in the twentieth century and may be similarly flawed in developing countries now undergoing transition. Estimates of the size of older-age populations and their attributable disease burden should be reconsidered.

Author: Benjamin J. Seligman , Mark R. Cullen, Ralph I. Horwitz



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