Brain diseases continue to be a major cause of disability and death across Europe

Brain diseases continue to be a major cause of disability and death across Europe. Deuschl G et al

Data from the Global Burden of Disease Study show that in 2017, neurological diseases (including dementia, Parkinson’s disease (PD) and multiple sclerosis) were the third most common cause of disability and death in the European Union and the greater European region (as defined by the World Health Organization).1

In total, there were 1.97 million deaths and 41.1 million life-years lived with disability or lost due to neurological disorders across Europe in 2017.1 Only cancer and cardiovascular disease were responsible for more death and disability in the European Union during this period.

Specifically, Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias accounted for almost 7.7 million life years lived with disability or lost, and over 700 000 deaths in the European region. Stroke was the only more burdensome neurological disease in 2017. Despite lower prevalence, the growth of the burden due to PD was greater than that for Alzheimer’s and other dementias during the study period. 

The Global Burden of Disease Study also noted substantial disparities in the burden of neurological diseases between countries and European regions.1 An accompanying editorial emphasized the need to understand local differences in population structures, as well differing rates of improvement in healthcare for specific diseases, to understand these variations.2

The complexities of neurological disease risk and management coupled with variations in health inequalities can be associated with many elements. The authors of the main publication and the editorial highlight the need to implement prevention programmes to reduce the modifiable risk (via impact on rates of smoking, alcohol consumption, obesity etc.) and consequent burden of neurological diseases.

1Deuschl G et al. The burden of neurological diseases in Europe: an analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2017. Lancet Public Health 2020;5:e551–e567

2 Padovani A and Pilotto A. Looking at the burden of neurological disorders in Europe. Lancet Public Health 2020;5:e523