Malnutrition and air pollution continue to be the top risk factors causing death and disability in India in 2016, according to the Global Burden of Disease report released on September 15, 2017.

The report analysed the top ten risk factors in 2005 and 2016 for Disability Adjusted Life Years (DALYs)--a sum of ‘years of life lost’ due to premature death and ‘years lost due to disability’. Each DALY is considered to be one year lost of a healthy life.

“The sum of these DALYs across the population, or the burden of disease, can be thought of as a measurement of the gap between current health status and an ideal health situation where the entire population lives to an advanced age, free of disease and disability,” according to the World Health Organization.

Maternal and child malnutrition caused 68 million DALYs in India in 2016--the highest in the world. Despite a 47% reduction in DALYs caused from it between 2005 and 2016, malnutrition remained India’s top risk factor for loss of healthy life years.

Air pollution caused 45 million DALYs in 2016--13% lower than in 2005.

Dietary risks--eating the wrong diet low in grains, fruits, nuts, seeds and fish oils and high in salt—replaced unsafe water and sanitation and hygiene to be India’s third deadliest risk factor, causing 41 million DALYs in 2016.

Other top risk factors causing most DALYs are high blood pressure, high fasting plasma glucose, tobacco, unsafe water and sanitation, high total cholesterol, high body mass index and alcohol and drug use.

The emergence of these metabolic and behavioural risk factors corresponds to increased non-communicable disease burden in India--which led to 6 million deaths in 2016.

Source: Global Burden of Disease

(Yadavar is a principal correspondent with IndiaSpend.)