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Inicio Revista de Psiquiatría y Salud Mental (English Edition) Burden of disease in adolescents and young people in Spain
Journal Information
Vol. 6. Issue 2.
Pages 80-85 (April - June 2013)
Vol. 6. Issue 2.
Pages 80-85 (April - June 2013)
Brief report
DOI: 10.1016/j.rpsmen.2012.07.002
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Burden of disease in adolescents and young people in Spain
Carga de enfermedad en adolescentes y jóvenes en España
Ferrán Catalá-Lópeza,b,c,??
Corresponding author

Corresponding author.
, Ricard Gènova-Malerasd, Elena Álvarez-Martíne, Nerea Fernández de Larrea-Bazf, Consuelo Morant-Ginestarg
a Centro Superior de Investigación en Salud Pública (CSISP), Conselleria de Sanitat, Generalitat Valenciana, Valencia, Spain
b Fundación Instituto de Investigación en Servicios de Salud, Valencia, Spain
c División de Farmacoepidemiología y Farmacovigilancia, Agencia Española de Medicamentos y Productos Sanitarios (AEMPS), Madrid, Spain
d Servicio de Informes de Salud y Estudios, Subdirección de Promoción de la Salud y Prevención, Consejería de Sanidad, Comunidad de Madrid, Madrid, Spain
e Facultad de Ciencias de la Salud, Universidad Rey Juan Carlos, Madrid, Spain
f Unidad de Evaluación de Tecnologías Sanitarias, Agencia Laín Entralgo, Consejería de Sanidad, Comunidad de Madrid, Madrid, Spain
g Subdirección General de Servicios de Sistemas de Información, Consejería de Sanidad, Comunidad de Madrid, Madrid, Spain
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Tables (2)
Table 1. Burden of disease in adolescents and young adults (aged 15-29 years) by sex, disease group and disease category. Spain, 2008.
Table 2. Burden of disease in adolescents and young adults (aged 15-29 years) by sex and main specific disease causes. Spain, 2008.
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This article analyses the burden of disease in adolescents and young people in Spain in 2008.

Materials and methods

A cross-sectional population-based study. We estimated disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) by sex and cause for subjects aged 15-29 years. Data sources were used: (1) National death records by age, sex and cause; (2) population data (both in July 2008); and (3) estimates of the disability pattern for European countries with very low mortality.


In 2008, adolescents and young people lost 786,479 DALYs (414,346 in males). Non-communicable diseases generated 661,282 DALYs (84% of the total). The main specific causes of disease burden were: unipolar depression (16% of DALYs), alcohol use disorders (11%), migraine (9%), bipolar disorder (7%), schizophrenia (6%), road traffic accidents (5%) and drug addiction disorders (5%).


The burden of disease expressed in DALYs can define the loss of health in adolescents and young people. At these ages, health promotion and protection are essential to prevent the onset of disease in adulthood.

Young people
Disability-adjusted life-years
Burden of disease

Se analiza la carga de enfermedad de los adolescentes y jóvenes en España en el año 2008.

Material y métodos

Estudio transversal de base poblacional. Se estiman los años de vida ajustados por discapacidad (AVAD) por sexo y causa específica en personas de 15-29 años. Las fuentes de información fueron: 1) Defunciones por edad, sexo y causa; 2) Estimaciones de la población a julio de 2008; y 3) Estimaciones del patrón de discapacidad para países europeos con baja mortalidad.


En 2008, los adolescentes y jóvenes perdieron 786.479 AVAD (414.346 en varones). Las enfermedades no transmisibles causaron 661.282 AVAD (84% respecto al total). Las principales causas específicas de carga de enfermedad fueron: depresión (16% de AVAD), abuso de alcohol (11%), migrañas (9%), trastorno bipolar (7%), esquizofrenia (6%), accidentes de circulación (5%) y adicción a drogas (5%).


La carga de enfermedad expresada en AVAD permite definir las pérdidas de salud en adolescentes y jóvenes. A estas edades, la promoción y protección de la salud son fundamentales, para prevenir la aparición de enfermedades en el adulto.

Palabras clave:
Años de vida ajustados por discapacidad
Carga de enfermedad
Full Text

In Spain, the adolescents and young people aged 15-29 years old represent 20% of the population.1 Although most adolescents and young people are healthy globally,2 over 3,400,000 annual deaths are estimated in the world population of those between 15 and 29 years old.3 In addition, a significant number of young people suffer diseases that cause losses in human capital with accumulative long-term socioeconomic costs or adopt behaviours that put their health at risk.2 In fact, almost 2/3 of premature deaths and 1/3 of the world-wide burden of adult disease are associated with diseases or behaviours that began in the adults’ youth.2,3

Among public policies, health is one of the priorities in actions on youth and childhood.4 However, national studies that have attempted to specifically estimate the importance of the various health problems in this group are rare.

Study on the burden of disease makes it possible to measure and compare the magnitude of health losses from different causes, considering their deadly and non-deadly consequences together.5,6 The key, most used indicator in burden of disease studies are the disability-adjusted life years (DALY), which have been employed to guide debates on establishing health priorities.6

The objective of this study was to analyse the burden of disease for the adolescents and young people in Spain in 2008, calculating the DALY by gender and disease cause.

Material and methodStudy type

This was a transversal study of a population base. The object of study was the population of 15- to 29-year olds resident in Spain in 2008.

Calculation method

We followed the methodology proposed in the study on world burden of disease from the World Health Organisation (WHO),5 the main reference for studies on calculating DALYs. The DALY consist of the sum of the years of life lost from premature death (YLL) and the years lived with disability and poor health (YLD).3,5 The YLL were calculated by estimating the loss of years due to premature death by gender, age and cause as the difference between the age at death and the expected lifespan for that age defined according to a model life table of high life expectancy (Princeton Level West 26 modified).5 The YLD were calculated indirectly, applying to the YLL obtained YLL/YLD ratio by gender, age and cause calculated from the values estimated for the set of European countries with high life span and low mortality, which includes Spain.3 We also applied social assessments with a discount rate (3%) and weighted by age (factor K=1).5

Information sources

Population data came from our National Statistics Institute (INE in Spanish), based on the current population estimates on 1 July 2008, yielding 8,645,287 people aged from 15 to 29 years.1 Deaths by sex and cause were taken from the anonymised file of the INE's individual records. Information on disability or poor health came from estimations for the 15-29 year old population in European countries with low mortality from the WHO study on global burden of disease.3

Statistical analysis

We performed a descriptive analysis, calculating DALY by sex and cause expressed in absolute (total numbers) and relative (rates per 100,000 inhabitants and proportions) values. The GesMor and Epidat 4.0 programs were used.


In 2008, a burden of disease for the population of adolescents and young people is estimated as equivalent to 786,479 DALY (16.0% of the total for the Spanish population). By sex, 52.7% of the DALY corresponds to males. The global DALY rate is 9097.2 per 100,000 inhabitants 15-29 years old.

In Table 1, you can see the burden of disease by sex, groups and disease categories. Non-transmissible diseases represent 84.1% of the total DALY. Mental and neurological diseases are the main cause by number of DALY (511,804), with higher rates for women than for men (6121.2 and 5729.4 per 100,000, respectively). Next are non-intentional accidents (72,063 DALY), respiratory diseases (42,188 DALY) and sense organ diseases (26,106 DALY).

Table 1.

Burden of disease in adolescents and young adults (aged 15-29 years) by sex, disease group and disease category. Spain, 2008.

  Both sexesMalesWomen
  No. of DALY  Percent  Rate per 100,000  No. of DALY  Percent  Rate per 100,000  No. of DALY  Percent  Rate per 100,000 
Disease groups
Group i. Transmissible  36,702  4.7  424.5  10,129  2.4  228.2  26,573  7.1  631.8 
Group ii. Non-transmissible  661,282  84.1  7649.0  335,967  81.1  7568.3  325,315  87.4  7734.3 
Group iii. Accidents  88,495  11.3  1023.6  68,250  16.5  1537.5  20,245  5.4  481.3 
Disease categoriesa
Mental and neurological  511,804  65.1  5920.0  254,337  61.4  5729.4  257,467  69.2  6121.2 
Non-intentional accidents  72,063  9.2  833.6  55,433  13.4  1248.7  16,631  4.5  395.4 
Respiratory  42,188  5.4  488.0  24,373  5.9  549.0  17,816  4.8  423.6 
Sense organs  26,106  3.3  302.0  12,434  3.0  280.1  13,672  3.7  325.0 
Malignant tumours  17,769  2.3  205.5  10,209  2.5  230.0  7560  2.0  179.7 
Infectious and parasitic  17,562  2.2  203.1  7808  1.9  175.9  9754  2.6  231.9 
Intentional accidents  16,432  2.1  190.1  12,818  3.1  288.7  3614  1.0  85.9 
Cardiovascular  15,602  2.0  180.5  9755  2.4  219.7  5847  1.6  139.0 
Digestive apparatus  13,336  1.7  154.3  6901  1.7  155.5  6434  1.7  153.0 
Maternal conditions  11,389  1.4  131.7  –  –  –  11,389  3.1  270.8 
Musculoskeletal  10,778  1.4  124.7  4086  1.0  92.0  6692  1.8  159.1 
Endocrine and blood  9882  1.3  114.3  5420  1.3  122.1  4462  1.2  106.1 
Nutritional deficiencies  6333  0.8  73.3  1434  0.3  32.3  4899  1.3  116.5 
Oral  6025  0.8  69.7  3095  0.7  69.7  2930  0.8  69.7 
Genitourinary  2773  0.4  32.1  1828  0.4  41.2  944  0.3  22.4 
Congenital anomalies  1962  0.2  22.7  1425  0.3  32.1  537  0.1  12.8 
Diabetes mellitus  1839  0.2  21.3  1532  0.4  34.5  306  0.1  7.3 
Respiratory infections  1247  0.2  14.4  820  0.2  18.5  427  0.1  10.2 
Other tumours (benign)  832  0.1  9.6  573  0.1  12.9  259  0.1  6.2 
Skin  388  0.0  4.5  0.0  0.0  388  0.1  9.2 
Perinatal conditions  171  0.0  2.0  67  0.0  1.5  104  0.0  2.5 
Population total  786,479  100.0  9097.2  414,346  100.0  9334.0  372,133  100.0  8847.3 

DALY: disability-adjusted life years. Note: Some percent sums may not add up to 100% due to decimal rounding.


Decreasing order of the categories based on the number of DALY in both sexes.

The main specific causes of burden of disease by sex can be seen in Table 2. In adolescents and young people (both sexes), depression (15.7% of the total DALY) is the leading cause of burden of disease, followed by alcohol abuse (10.6%), migraine (8.7%), bipolar disorder (7.1%), schizophrenia (6.1%), traffic accidents (4.9%) and drug addiction (4.9%). The ranking for disease causes varied according to gender (Table 2). In the males, alcohol abuse was the leading cause (16.4% DALY), ahead of depression (10.9%), traffic accidents (7.6%), drug addiction (7.1%), bipolar disorder (6.9%), schizophrenia (6.4%) and asthma (4.0%). Among the females, depression continues as the main cause by number of DALY (21.1%), followed by migraine (14.0%), bipolar disorder (7.3%), schizophrenia (5.8%), panic attacks (5.5%), alcohol abuse (4.3%) and asthma (3.2%) (Table 2).

Table 2.

Burden of disease in adolescents and young adults (aged 15-29 years) by sex and main specific disease causes. Spain, 2008.

Specific disease causes  Both sexesMalesWomen
  Ranking  No. of DALY  Percent  Rate per 100,000  Ranking  No. of DALY  Percent  Rate per 100,000  Ranking  No. of DALY  Percent  Rate per 100,000 
Unipolar depression  123,698  15.7  1430.8  45,227  10.9  1.018.8  78,471  21.1  1865.6 
Alcohol abuse  83,738  10.6  968.6  67,892  16.4  1529.4  15,846  4.3  376.7 
Migraine  68,788  8.7  795.7  16,575  4.0  373.4  52,212  14.0  1241.3 
Bipolar disorder  55,483  7.1  641.8  28,432  6.9  640.5  27,051  7.3  643.1 
Schizophrenia  48,084  6.1  556.2  26,482  6.4  596.5  21,602  5.8  513.6 
Traffic accidents  38,598  4.9  446.5  31,587  7.6  711.6  12  7011  1.9  166.7 
Drug addiction  38,314  4.9  443.2  29,228  7.1  658.4  9086  2.4  216.0 
Panic attacks  30,881  3.9  357.2  11  10,303  2.5  232.1  20,578  5.5  489.2 
Asthma  28,676  3.6  331.7  16,657  4.0  375.2  12,019  3.2  285.8 
Refractive errors  10  21,315  2.7  246.5  10,933  2.6  246.3  10,382  2.8  246.8 
Obsessive-compulsive disorder  11  16,565  2.1  191.6  13  8222  2.0  185.2  10  8343  2.2  198.3 
Falls  12  13,119  1.7  151.7  10  10,835  2.6  244.1  17  2283  0.6  54.3 
Suicide  13  12,709  1.6  147.0  12  10,120  2.4  228.0  15  2588  0.7  61.5 
Post-traumatic stress disorder  14  10,340  1.3  119.6  17  2862  0.7  64.5  11  7478  2.0  177.8 
Insomnia (primary)  15  8777  1.1  101.5  15  4250  1.0  95.8  14  4526  1.2  107.6 
HIV/AIDS  16  6547  0.8  75.7  14  5040  1.2  113.5  22  1507  0.4  35.8 
Sexually transmitted diseases  17  5885  0.7  68.1  38  550  0.1  12.4  13  5335  1.4  126.8 
Poisoning  18  4948  0.6  57.2  16  3985  1.0  89.8  26  962  0.3  22.9 
Cerebrovascular disease  19  4641  0.6  53.7  19  2660  0.6  59.9  21  1981  0.5  47.1 
Epilepsy  20  3972  0.5  45.9  23  1677  0.4  37.8  16  2295  0.6  54.6 
Multiple sclerosis  21  3947  0.5  45.6  22  1774  0.4  40.0  18  2172  0.6  51.6 
Violence  22  3723  0.5  43.1  18  2698  0.7  60.8  24  1026  0.3  24.4 
Leukaemia  23  3691  0.5  42.7  20  2367  0.6  53.3  23  1324  0.4  31.5 
Hearing loss  24  3560  0.5  41.2  25  1432  0.3  32.3  20  2128  0.6  50.6 
Total main causes    639,996  81.4  7402.8    341,789  82.5  7699.5    298,207  80.1  7089.8 
Population total    786,479  100.0  9097.2    414,346  100.0  9334.0    372,133  100.0  8847.3 

DALY: disability-adjusted life years. Note: Some percent sums may not add up to 100% due to decimal rounding.


In our study, we have analysed the burden of disease in ages from 15 to 29 years, which represents 16% of the total population burden. Non-transmissible diseases, specifically the neurological and mental, constitute the main category in number of DALY. In particular, mental disorders as a group comprise the most frequent cause of burden of disease in Europe, due to their high prevalence and strong impact on patient quality of life, with significant economic and social repercussions.7–9 Coinciding with previous studies,10,11 depression is still the leading specific cause of burden of disease in adolescents and young people, while drug abuse is also notable (alcohol consumption held 2nd place and drug addiction was in 7th place), as well as some accidents and lesions (traffic accidents, falls and suicides). Gore et al.10 recently estimated that, for the world-wide adolescent population, depression (8.2%), traffic accidents (5.4%) and schizophrenia (4.1%) were the main causes of global burden of disease. In Spain, these 3 causes are also found among the main conditions that bring about poor health.

As in other studies,6,11–14 it is important to emphasise the lack of clinical records for most of the diseases analysed. This has led to using disability data for countries with an epidemiological pattern similar to our country's, assuming that morbidity in Spain behaves similarly to the European reference population. Some advances involve improving these estimations as the records with clinical-administrative information increase, along with growth in data from longitudinal attention programmes for young people such as information from social services and/or electronic clinical records. Even so, it is highly probably that some conditions or health problems continue under-reported and, consequently, underestimated. Examples are those that are not included in either questionnaires or statistics through apprehension, fear of social rejection or being stigmatised, such as suicides–which represent the 2nd cause of death in these ages, coming behind only traffic accidents in the mortality statistics.

Our results show that the burden of disease expressed in DALY makes it possible to define health losses in young people, where the principal causes of burden of disease rarely lead to death (except for accidents) or whose lethality is less than in other ages (such as cardiovascular disease or cancer in older people).12,13 For example, the poor mental health in young people is related to high prevalence in the adult and the vast majority of mental disorders in adults become chronic diseases that begin in adolescence.15

We did not analyse the burden of disease attributable to risk factors, but other authors10 suggest that it is low among young people. However, it is seen that alcohol abuse, drug addiction and sexually transmitted diseases (in women) weigh heavily in the burden of disease in young people. Other risk factors that generally begin in youth (e.g., smoking, obesity and high blood pressure) have great social and health impact in adults. In this sense, the health of adolescents and young people should also be analysed bearing in mind the acquisition of habits that may affect future health.

In summary, estimating DALY specifically for the adolescents and young people in Spain offers a systematic analysis of the burden of disease and is an important component in identifying the health problems needing greater attention from those who decide and plan health policies. The burden of disease in adolescents and young people in Spain is basically attributable to neurological and mental diseases. We hope that our study results contribute to more balanced health agenda in the National Health System, with appropriate investment in health research programmes, activities, specialised training programmes for professionals and early detection and intervention aimed at reducing health losses. Likewise, promoting and protecting young people's health are fundamental to guarantee a social structure and prevent the appearance of diseases in adults. Consequently, ensuring and improving the health of youngsters should continue to be a priority for those responsible for policies and for health professionals.

Ethical disclosuresProtection of people and animals

The authors declare that no experiments have been performed on human beings or animals for this research.

Data confidentiality

The authors declare that no patient data appear in this article.

Right to privacy and informed consent

The authors declare that no patient data appear in this article.


The authors received funding as research grants from the Instituto de Salud Carlos III-Fondo de Investigación Sanitaria (File No.: PS09/00086).

Conflict of interests

The authors have no conflict of interests to declare. The opinions expressed herein are those of the authors, so they do not necessarily reflect the points of view of the organisms in which they work.


The authors wish to thank the anonymous evaluators of the Revista de Psiquiatría and Salud Mental for their comments, which have helped to improve the article. FCL and RGM contributed equally in this study and are the ones responsible for the article.

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Please cite this article as: Catalá-López F, et al. Carga de enfermedad en adolescentes y jóvenes en España. Rev Psiquiatr Salud Ment (Barc.). 2013;6:80–5.

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