Other dimensions of the NCD crisis: from mental health, ageing, dementia and malnutrition to deaths on the roads, violence and disability

WHO has included several new dimensions to the crisis of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) by drawing attention to conditions that impact the health and safety of all people. This year’s focus on depression builds awareness of mental health. Healthy ageing is a key priority, including assisting those who battle dementia. The fight against malnutrition now includes the opposite extreme of obesity. Road deaths, the biggest killer of people aged 15-29, are targeted, as is support for people with disabilities and those suffering violence, especially women and children.

Children running on a beach.

Noncommunicable diseases

Health problems caused by mental and neurological disorders, unsafe roads, violence, disability, malnutrition in its two extreme forms, and the ageing of the world’s population add considerably to the burden of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs). As highlighted on World Health Day 2017, depression is the leading cause of ill health and disability worldwide. According to the latest estimates from WHO, more than 300 million people are now living with depression, an increase of more than 18% between 2005 and 2015. Lack of support for people with mental disorders, coupled with a fear of stigma, prevent many from accessing the treatment they need to live healthy and productive lives. In addition, more than one billion people worldwide experience significant disability, and up to one billion children are exposed to violence each year.

"By the middle of this century, the population of people aged 65 and older will outnumber children for the first time in history."

Dr Chan, WHO Director-General

Demographic ageing is now a universal trend, with populations ageing fastest in low- and middle-income countries. By the middle of this century, the population of people aged 65 and older will outnumber children for the first time in history. “Ageism” – based on outmoded stereotypes of the ageing process – is another barrier that blocks access to the many interventions that contribute to healthy ageing.

Changes in the world’s dietary patterns now mean that severe undernutrition, which stunts and wastes young children, often exists side-by-side with overnutrition, leading to overweight, obesity, and a host of chronic health problems. In a positive trend, the number of deaths and injuries caused by road traffic crashes – though still much too high – has not increased as expected given the continuing rise of more and more vehicles on the world’s roads.