Population health outcomes in South Korea 1990–2019, and projections up to 2040: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2019
South Korea has one of the longest operating universal health coverage (UHC) systems. A comprehensive analysis of long-term trajectories of morbidity and mortality in the South Korean population after the inception of UHC is needed to inform health-care policy and practice.
We used data from the Global Burden of Disease Study (GBD) 2019 to present estimates of cause-specific mortality, incidence, prevalence, years of life lost (YLLs), years of life lived with disability, and disability-adjusted life-years (DALYs) in South Korea from 1990 to 2019. We also examined forecasted estimates of YLLs up to 2040 to investigate likely future changes in disease burden. Finally, we evaluated GBD estimates from seven comparator countries to place disease burden in South Korea within a broader context.
Age-standardised DALYs related to non-communicable diseases (NCDs) decreased by 43·6% (95% uncertainty interval [UI] 39·4–47·9) and mortality by 58·8% (55·9–60·5) from 1990 to 2019. In 2019, the ratio of male to female age-standardised rates of YLLs in South Korea was higher than the global average for 75·9% (22 of 29 diseases) of leading causes, indicating a disproportional disease burden on males in South Korea. Among risk factors, tobacco use accounted for the highest number of 2019 deaths (44 470 [95% UI 37 432–53 989]) in males and high systolic blood pressure for the highest number (21 014 [15 553–26 723]) in females. Among the top ten leading causes of YLLs forecast in South Korea in 2040, nine were NCDs, for both males and females.
Our report shows a positive landscape of population health outcomes in South Korea following the establishment of UHC. However, due in part to the effects of population ageing driving up medical expenditures for NCDs, financial pressures and sustainability challenges associated with UHC are pressing concerns. Policy makers should work to tackle population ageing and allocate resources efficiently by prioritising interventions that address the leading causes of death and disability identified in this study.
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Publication titleThe Lancet Public Health
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