Until recently, health indicators for populations have been based solely on mortality or disease incidence and prevalence. The previous decade witnessed a continuous increase in different burden of disease methodologies that merged these two halves into one measure which describes population health by loss of life-years caused by disease induced loss of quality of life and premature death.
This article describes the results of Estonian national burden of disease study which was based on nationwide mortality and health insurance data from the year 2002. On that particular year, 326,899 disability-adjusted life-years (DALYs) were lost in Estonia with significant gender differences in the burden of disease causes. The most important difference is that in women most of loss is due to lifetime illness, while in men most of loss is due to premature mortality.
Cardiovascular diseases, injuries and neoplasms are the major sources of disease burden, which caused altogether the loss of 210,520 life-years. In the case of injuries, over 50% of life-years lost can be attributed to age below 40, which is a clear indicator of widespread risk behaviours among younger people.
Estimation of the disease burden provides a new generalised overview of population health, which allows to identify problems of public health and to support health policy and setting of priorities.