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A recent study revealed that almost 50% of the world’s population is afflicted with neurological disorders. International researchers have found a substantial rise in the occurrence and health consequences of neurological conditions like stroke, meningitis, and Alzheimer’s disease in the last three decades.

Aging population and population increase driving surge in neurological disorders

The study reveals that factors such as global population growth, aging demographics, and increased exposure to risk factors are driving a significant surge in neurological conditions worldwide. Published in The Lancet Neurology journal, the study indicates that in 2021, approximately 3.4 billion people were affected by neurological conditions, representing a notable increase compared to previous years. The overall burden of these conditions, measured in disability-adjusted life years (DALYs), rose by 18 percent from 1990 to 2021.

According to Dr. Liane Ong, a co-senior author at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington, the worldwide incidence of diabetic neuropathy has surged significantly, more than tripling since 1990, reaching 206 million cases in 2021. This escalation correlates with the rising prevalence of diabetes on a global scale.

The global incidence of neurological conditions has risen significantly due to demographic shifts, but age-standardized rates of disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) and deaths from these conditions have decreased by approximately one-third globally. This decline is attributed to enhanced awareness, vaccination, and prevention initiatives. Key successes include a 93% decrease in tetanus cases, a 62% reduction in meningitis, and a 39% decline in stroke DALYs.

Migraines and tension-type headaches among leading neurological disorders

In 2021, researchers identified the top 10 neurological conditions contributing to health loss, including stroke, migraine, neonatal encephalopathy, Alzheimer’s disease, other dementias, and diabetic neuropathy. This study marked the first inclusion of COVID-19 neurological consequences, ranking it 20th with 2.48 million years of healthy life lost.

Tension-type headaches and migraines were the most prevalent neurological disorders, with approximately two billion and 1.1 billion cases reported, respectively. Diabetic neuropathy tripled globally since 1990, reaching 206 million cases in 2021, in tandem with the global rise in diabetes.