Global Health Patterns

By Alex Jackson

Last updated on

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The content on this page is extremely old. Much has changed in the world since this article was written. While many of the concepts will still be relevant, figures and case studies are likely to be outdated at this point.

Global Patterns of Death Rates

Globally, death rate varies quite significantly from country to country. In Europe, death rate is at a medium level, with 9-10 deaths per 1000 of the population. Eastern Europe & Russia sees a small increase in death rate to 11-15 people per 1000 of the population. In Asia & Arabic countries, the death rate falls in the vast majority of countries. China, for example, has a death rate of 5-6 people per 1000 of the population. Australia’s death rate is also quite low at 7-8 people per 1000 of the population. Overall, South America’s death rate is surprisingly low. Brazil’s death rate is 5-6 people per 1000 while other South American countries have a death rate of 7-8 people per 1000 of the population.

Europe’s medium level death rate is likely due to the ageing population. The death rate is worsened in eastern Europe and Russia due to the presence of AIDS/HIV, drugs and alcohol in the areas.

In MEDCs, including Europe and America, the primary source of death are diseases caused by unhealthy lifestyle choices. Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and lung cancer are all major causes of death. In addition to this, AIDS/HIV is still prevalent in some MEDCs with 40% of deaths in MEDCs caused by heart disease and AIDS/HIV.

In LEDCs, the majority of deaths are caused by curable infections such as TB, malaria and AIDS/HIV. In South Africa, HIV is especially rampant, with 60% of all the world’s cases of AIDS/HIV occurring in sub-saharan Africa. Unclean water supplies are also a large source of deaths by Cholera in Africa. These infectious diseases are far more common in LEDCs than MEDCs due to a lack of health care and available vaccines and medicines. In Afghanistan, for example, only $4 is spent per person on health versus $2,981 per person in the UK.

Global Patterns of Infant Mortality Rates

Why Is IMR An Indicator Of A Country’s Development?

Infant mortality rate can be used to assess the health of the mother as, if she is unhealthy due to a lack of food or access to medicine, then neither her or her child will be healthy. This can also be an indicator of the education level of the mother as we can tell if she has been educated on how to care for her child. Finally, the IMR can be an indicator of health provisions such as access to medicine and midwives.

Global IMR Pattern

In LEDCs, the IMR is significantly higher than in MEDCs. This is largely due to a lack of nutritious food and medicine, causing babies to die quickly via starvation or disease. The prevalence of aids in some countries can also be a factor leading to more infant deaths. In countries such as South Africa, the abundance of mosquitos and the lack of mosquito nets and anti-malaria vaccines can also be a major cause of deaths by malaria in infants.

Global Patterns of Morbidity

Morbidity, the incidence of disease, is measured by the World Health Organisation (WHO) using DALYs (Disability Adjusted Life Years), the amount of life left due to disease or conditions. Globally, morbidity is higher in LEDCs than MEDCs. In MEDCs, the primary source of morbidity is from disease due to poor lifestyles and diseases from old age such as Alzheimer’s. The survival rate from these diseases is much higher in MEDCs too. The major sources of morbidity in LEDCs are perinatal conditions, AIDS, malaria and TB with much lower survival rates. There are some diseases that effect both types of countries such as depression and heart/lung diseases but these are caused for differing reasons. Depression in MEDCs can come from stressful situations and work whilst in LEDCs, depression is a common side effect of malaria.

Risk Factors

Morbidity is effected by certain risk factors. In LEDCs, these factors are malnutrition, social diseases (i.e. AIDS), unsanitary hygiene & living conditions, a lack of clean water and poor living standards. In MEDCs, these factors are blood pressure, a lack of physical activity and lifestyle choices such as alcohol, tobacco and poor diets.

Global Patterns Of Life Expectancy

In general, the life expectancy of individuals in MEDCs is higher than those in LEDCs. In addition most of the world’s women’s life expectancy is higher than men’s, with the average life expectancy of a woman being 66 years and a man’s being 62.7 years. This variation in life expectancy varies from country to country with a difference of 13 years between men and women in Russia, for example. Within countries, the better educated professionals generally have a longer life expectancy, while the poorer, working class generally have a lower life expectancy.

AIDS has played a major role in lowering the life expectancy of individuals in both LEDCs and MEDCs, though more so in LEDCs. In sub-saharan Africa, AIDS has lowered the life expectancy from 62 to 47 years. Nutrition, more specifically malnutrition, can lead to lowered life expectancies. A lack of nutritious food in both LEDCs and MEDCs can severely lower life expectancy. The quality and availability of health care is a significant factor in life expectancy too. In African countries and many other LEDCs, a very small percentage of the world’s health care workers are actually situated in the country. In Africa, 3% of the world’s health workers are present. The situation is far better in MEDCs, contributing towards MEDCs' higher life expectancy. In the Americas, 42% of the world’s health workers are situated there.

The number of health workers in a country is directly tied to the quality and availability of education in a country. Poor education means fewer doctors, nurses and other medical staff can be trained, reducing life expectancy and increasing the reliance on other countries for health care. This situated is alleviated by the provision of aid, doctors and education to LEDCs through programs such as Doctors Without Borders.

The quality of life in a country can be a significant in people’s life expectancy as well. Poverty leads to malnutrition, a shortage of health care and depression. Depression itself, leads to many depression related diseases and, ultimately, suicide, significantly lowering a country’s life expectancy.