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Understanding cardiovascular diseases
Understanding cardiovascular diseases

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1.5 Economic impact of cardiovascular diseases

The economic costs of cardiovascular diseases are wide-ranging and increasing. There are costs to the individual and their family, to the government (especially if medical care is state-funded) and to the country's economy if time is lost from work. The costs of cardiovascular diseases within the European Union in 2005 are estimated to be €169 billion (169 thousand million) per year. Over two thirds of the costs are direct health care costs (Petersen et al., 2006).

The costs of prescribing cardiovascular drugs for 2002 in England were £1.74 billion (Evans, 2004). That was about one quarter of the total prescribing costs (£1.74 billion out of £6.84 billion). In the UK, prescribing costs in relation to the prevention of coronary heart diseases are increasing nationally, with significant cost pressures related to implementation of the National Service Framework for preventing coronary heart disease (see Section 4.1; Evans, 2004).

In Section 1.3 you were introduced to the global cost of cardiovascular diseases in terms of lives lost to these conditions. However, many people are also living with cardiovascular diseases or disabled in some way due to the debilitating effects of some of these conditions.

The World Health Organization (WHO) produces world data tables detailing, by country, the total population and the deaths from heart disease and other cardiovascular diseases (plus some major risk factors) (WHO, 2006). There are also figures for the ‘healthy years of life lost’ (DALYS: disability-adjusted life years), and these give an indication of the disease burden within the population.

Activity 2: Using the world data tables for cardiovascular diseases

Timing: 0 hours 20 minutes

Look at the world data tables for 2002 produced by WHO (2006). Find the row of data for the UK, which had a population of roughly 60 million in 2002. You can calculate the actual number of healthy years of life lost due to coronary heart disease for the UK (DALYS lost) in 2002 as being:

Pick another country with a similar population – for example, Thailand (62 million), Turkey (70 million), France (60 million) or Italy (57 million) – and repeat the above calculation using the data for that country. Compare the answer you get with the answer for the UK.

If you haven't done so already, take a look at the data from your own country.


This activity should have exercised your mathematical skills and showed the number of healthy years lost due to the development of coronary heart disease in different countries. The differences observed between countries with similar-sized populations should stimulate you to think about the wider implications on, for example, their health services and economies.