IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

The Global Economic Burden of Noncommunicable Diseases


  • David E. Bloom

    () (Harvard School of Public Health)

  • Elizabeth Cafiero

    () (Harvard School of Public Health)

  • Eva Jané-Llopis

    () (University of Nijmegen)

  • Shafika Abrahams-Gessel

    () (Harvard University)

  • Lakshmi Reddy Bloom

    () (Data for Decisions LLC)

  • Sana Fathima

    (University of Oxford)

  • Andrea B. Feigl

    () (Harvard School of Public Health)

  • Tom Gaziano

    () (Harvard School of Public Health)

  • Ali Hamandi

    () (Harvard School of Public Health)

  • Mona Mowafi

    () (Harvard School of Public Health)

  • Danny O’Farrell

    () (Harvard School of Public Health)

  • Emre Ozaltin

    () (Harvard School of Public Health)

  • Ankur Pandya

    () (Harvard School of Public Health)

  • Klaus Prettner

    () (Harvard School of Public Health)

  • Larry Rosenberg

    () (Harvard School of Public Health)

  • Benjamin Seligman

    () (Stanford University School of Medicine)

  • Adam Z. Stein

    (Harvard School of Public Health)

  • Cara Weinstein

    (Harvard School of Public Health)

  • Jonathan Weiss

    (Yale School of Public Health)


As policy-makers search for ways to reduce poverty and income inequality, and to achieve sustainable income growth, they are being encouraged to focus on an emerging challenge to health, well-being and development: non-communicable diseases (NCDs). After all, 63% of all deaths worldwide currently stem from NCDs – chiefly cardiovascular diseases, cancers, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes. These deaths are distributed widely among the world’s population – from highincome to low-income countries and from young to old (about one-quarter of all NCD deaths occur below the age of 60, amounting to approximately 9 million deaths per year). NCDs have a large impact, undercutting productivity and boosting healthcare outlays. Moreover, the number of people affected by NCDs is expected to rise substantially in the coming decades, reflecting an ageing and increasing global population. With this in mind, the United Nations is holding its first High-Level Meeting on NCDs on 19-20 September 2011 – this is only the second time that a high-level UN meeting is being dedicated to a health topic (the first time being on HIV/ AIDS in 2001). Over the years, much work has been done estimating the human toll of NCDs, but work on estimating the economic toll is far less advanced. In this report, the World Economic Forum and the Harvard School of Public Health try to inform and stimulate further debate by developing new estimates of the global economic burden of NCDs in 2010, and projecting the size of the burden through 2030. Three distinct approaches are used to compute the economic burden: (1) the standard cost of illness method; (2) macroeconomic simulation and (3) the value of a statistical life. This report includes not only the four major NCDs (the focus of the UN meeting), but also mental illness, which is a major contributor to the burden of disease worldwide. This evaluation takes place in the context of enormous global health spending, serious concerns about already strained public finances and worries about lacklustre economic growth. The report also tries to capture the thinking of the business community about the impact of NCDs on their enterprises. Five key messages emerge: • First, NCDs already pose a substantial economic burden and this burden will evolve into a staggering one over the next two decades. For example, with respect to cardiovascular disease, chronic respiratory disease, cancer, diabetes and mental health, the macroeconomic simulations suggest a cumulative output loss of US$ 47 trillion over the next two decades. This loss represents 75% of global GDP in 2010 (US$ 63 trillion). It also represents enough money to eradicate two dollar-a-day poverty among the 2.5 billion people in that state for more than half a century. • Second, although high-income countries currently bear the biggest economic burden of NCDs, the developing world, especially middle-income countries, is expected to assume an ever larger share as their economies and populations grow. • Third, cardiovascular disease and mental health conditions are the dominant contributors to the global economic burden of NCDs. • Fourth, NCDs are front and centre on business leaders’ radar. The World Economic Forum’s annual Executive Opinion Survey (EOS), which feeds into its Global Competitiveness Report, shows that about half of all business leaders surveyed worry that at least one NCD will hurt their company’s bottom line in the next five years, with similarly high levels of concern in low-, middle- and high-income countries – especially in countries where the quality of healthcare or access to healthcare is perceived to be poor. These NCD-driven concerns are markedly higher than those reported for the communicable diseases of HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis. • Fifth, the good news is that there appear to be numerous options available to prevent and control NCDs. For example, the WHO has identified a set of interventions they call “Best Buys”. There is also considerable scope for the design and implementation of programmes aimed at behaviour change among youth and adolescents, and more costeffective models of care – models that reduce the care-taking burden that falls on untrained family members. Further research on the benefits of such interventions in relation to their costs is much needed. It is our hope that this report informs the resource allocation decisions of the world’s economic leaders – top government officials, including finance ministers and their economic advisors – who control large amounts of spending at the national level and have the power to react to the formidable economic threat posed by NCDs.

Suggested Citation

  • David E. Bloom & Elizabeth Cafiero & Eva Jané-Llopis & Shafika Abrahams-Gessel & Lakshmi Reddy Bloom & Sana Fathima & Andrea B. Feigl & Tom Gaziano & Ali Hamandi & Mona Mowafi & Danny O’Farrell & Emre, 2012. "The Global Economic Burden of Noncommunicable Diseases," PGDA Working Papers 8712, Program on the Global Demography of Aging.
  • Handle: RePEc:gdm:wpaper:8712

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Mayer-Foulkes David A, 2011. "A Survey of Macro Damages from Non-Communicable Chronic Diseases: Another Challenge for Global Governance," Global Economy Journal, De Gruyter, vol. 11(1), pages 1-27, March.
    2. Johansson, Per-Olov, 2001. "Is there a meaningful definition of the value of a statistical life?," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 20(1), pages 131-139, January.
    3. Navarro, Vicente & Shi, Leiyu, 2001. "The political context of social inequalities and health," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 52(3), pages 481-491, February.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Blog mentions

    As found by, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. A Civilization Intent on Eating Itself into an Early Grave
      by Reason in Fight Aging on 2017-07-25 05:11:24


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. M. O. Aremu & Hashim Ibrahim, 2017. "Dietary Phospholipids and Phytostrerols: A Review on Some Nigerian Vegetable Oils," International Journal of Sciences, Office ijSciences, vol. 6(09), pages 94-102, September.
    2. World Bank, 2017. "Pacific Possible," World Bank Other Operational Studies 28135, The World Bank.
    3. Rowbotham, Samantha & McKinnon, Merryn & Marks, Leah & Hawe, Penelope, 2019. "Research on media framing of public policies to prevent chronic disease: A narrative synthesis," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 237(C), pages 1-1.
    4. Mayer-Foulkes David A. & Pescetto-Villouta Claudia, 2012. "Economic Development and Non-Communicable Chronic Diseases," Global Economy Journal, De Gruyter, vol. 12(4), pages 1-44, December.
    5. World Bank Group, 2017. "Multisectoral Nutrition Assessment in Sri Lanka's Estate Sector," World Bank Other Operational Studies 26328, The World Bank.
    6. Brown, Sarah & Harris, Mark N. & Srivastava, Preety & Taylor, Karl, 2018. "Mental Health and Reporting Bias: Analysis of the GHQ-12," IZA Discussion Papers 11771, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    7. Anne Maryse Pierre-Louis & Katherina Ferl & Christina Dinh Wadhwani & Neesha Harnam & Montserrat Meiro-Lorenzo, 2014. "Setting the Stage to Address the Dual Challenge of MDGs and NCDs," Health, Nutrition and Population (HNP) Discussion Paper Series 100278, The World Bank.
    8. Anselm Rink & Ramona Wong-Grünwald, 2017. "How effective are HIV behaviour change interventions? Experimental evidence from Zimbabwe," Journal of Development Effectiveness, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 9(3), pages 361-388, July.
    9. Arokiasamy, Perianayagam & Uttamacharya, Uttamacharya & Jain, Kshipra, 2013. "Multiple Chronic Diseases and Their Linkages with Functional health and Subjective Wellbeing among adults in the low-middle income countries: An Analysis of SAGE Wave1 Data, 2007/10," MPRA Paper 54914, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised Mar 2014.
    10. Iryna Postolovska & Rouselle F. Lavado & Gillian Tarr & Stephane Verguet, 2017. "Estimating the Distributional Impact of Increasing Taxes on Tobacco Products in Armenia," World Bank Other Operational Studies 26386, The World Bank.
    11. Jenny Liu & Sepideh Modrek & Maia Sieverding, 2017. "The mental health of youth and young adults during the transition to adulthood in Egypt," Demographic Research, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany, vol. 36(56), pages 1721-1758.

    More about this item


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:gdm:wpaper:8712. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Cinzia Smothers) The email address of this maintainer does not seem to be valid anymore. Please ask Cinzia Smothers to update the entry or send us the correct email address. General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.