n South African Medical Journal - Chronic diseases in the Western world : increasing incidence or increasing overdiagnosis? : from the editor

Volume 106, Issue 5
  • ISSN : 0256-9574
  • E-ISSN: 2078-5135



This issue of the SAMJ carries an important paper for South Africa (SA), outlining the trends in non-communicable disease (NCD) mortality in this country over the 13 years 1997 - 2010. In this largely resource-poor country, nearly 40% of deaths during this period were due to NCDs, and of these nearly 15% were regarded as premature deaths - i.e. before the age of 45. Another 21% were deaths between the ages of 45 and 59. This is a worrying trend in a country where we still have significant child mortality. However, commentators in the developed world are concerned, for different reasons, about an explosion of chronic disease. In a recent article in the BMJ, McGrail question whether this increase in chronic disease truly reflects worse health. They cite a recent paper from the Global Burden of Disease Study suggesting that only 4% of the world's population is free of disease - in other words, health is an anomaly. Chronic diseases are the conditions that contribute to this alarming 'lack of health', and multimorbidity - described as the 'most common chronic condition' - affects at least half of the population aged over 65.

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