Living a long life and living in good health are not synonymous concepts contrary to popular belief. For example, a person may live to be a hundred years old having spent eighty years of his or her life committed to a psychiatric institution. Most people regard health as a physical state rather than a mental one thus expect that a reduction in mortality rates due to the prevention of particular conditions such as HIV/AIDS or heart conditions leads to healthier lives. This is true but only partly. The number of persons suffering from mental disorders such as chronic depression and eating disorders has been on the rise. The burden of a particular disease, that is; its mortality, cost and morbidity may be measured using Disability Adjusted Life Years (DALYs). DALYs express the number of years lost in one’s expected life due to a particular disability or disease and one DALY refers to one year of good health that has been lost. It provides a reliable measure of healthy living as it takes into account the number of years lost as a result of premature death and the number of years wasted whilst living with the particular disability. Basically, it is used to quantify premature death as noted by the JAMA article on the US Burden of Health, mental diseases are contributing more to premature death as compared to the more traditional conditions such as strokes. Other regions in the world have also taken into account the burden of chronic conditions such as diabetes mellitus and unipolar depressive disorders on their public health systems (Pomerleau, Knai, & Nolte, 2008).
Understanding the risk factors that contribute to mental diseases is essential in order to develop health policies that address the need to live healthy lives. The article identified incidences of already defined risk factors within the population under study. For example, adolescents who felt the need to belong to particular groups in society were more likely to suffer from depression than children below the sage of five. Also, poor diet, excessive smoking and drinking as well as drug abuse have contributed to chronic disabling conditions within the United States. However, the root of almost all mental disorders except for those regarded as hereditary can be attributed to the change in society which the article fails to take note of. The individualized nature of most American lives had contributed to the rise in incidences of depression and suicide.
The article published by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), “The State of US Health, 1990-2010: Burden of Diseases, Injuries and Risk Factors,” has been instrumental in identifying key health issues in the United States which are of universal application. The results of the study carried out in the United States revealed an increase in life mortality in 2010 as compared to that which was recorded in 1990. This is attributable in improved health care and access to medical facilities. Increased awareness about communicable diseases such as HIV/AIDS has reduced their spread thus contributing to decreased mortality rates in many countries, not just the United States alone. However, the study revealed that the divide between the number of years lived and the number of healthy years lived was greater in 2010 than it was in 1990 (Pomerleau, Knai, & Nolte, 2008). This has been attributed to a rise in mental disorders such as chronic depression, suicidal tendencies and eating disorders. According to the article, the only way to remedy this situation is to address the risk factors for particular mental disorders. The Healthy People 2020 Initiative launched in December, 2010 as well as other health care agencies seek to improve the health of all Americans which can only be realized through an appreciation and understanding of the results of the study published by JAMA.
Pomerleau, J., Knai, C., & Nolte, E. (2008). The Burden of Chronic Disease in Europe. In E. Nolte, & M. McKee, Caring for People with Chronic Conditions; A Health System Perspective (pp. 15-42). Berkshire: McGraw Hill.