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‘Jordanians living longer but facing chronic diseases, diet-related risks’

By Khetam Malkawi - Jan 21,2014 - Last updated at Jan 21,2014

AMMAN — Although life expectancy among Jordanians witnessed an increase in 2010 compared to two decades earlier, the Kingdom is still threatened by the rise in chronic diseases, diet-related risk factors, and road deaths, according to a study released this week.

The Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors 2013 study ranked Jordan 10th among Arab countries in terms of an increase in life expectancy among men, with a 7.68 per cent rise from 70.3 years in 1990 to 75.7 years in 2010.

However, Jordan was ranked 19th among Arab countries for the rise in life expectancy among women and was only followed by Libya, Iraq and Kuwait.

According to the study, life expectancy among Jordanian women increased by 3.16 per cent, from 72.8 in 1990 to 75.1 years in 2010.

The study, conducted by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington, showed that Yemen topped the list of Arab countries in the improvement of life expectancy among men, with a 12.16 per cent increase in the period in question, followed by Lebanon (10.27 per cent) and Sudan (10.21 per cent).

Sudan led the list when it came to women's life expectancy (11.16 per cent), followed by Yemen (9.95 per cent) and Egypt (9.55 per cent).

The study noted that important changes occurred over those two decades in the region as a whole.

“Burden attributable to non-communicable disease, including ischemic heart disease, mental disorders such as depression and anxiety, and musculoskeletal disorders increased, while the premature death and disability from most newborn, nutritional and maternal disorders decreased," the IHME said.

"Basically, there were tremendous improvements in what is killing people but not in what is ailing them.”

Of the 10 leading causes of health loss, combining both premature mortality and years lived with disability, between 1990 and 2010, lower respiratory infections remained the first, while ischemic heart disease rose to second.

Major depressive disorder rose from eighth to fifth place, and low back pain — which was not among the top causes of health loss in 1990 — was ranked seventh in 2010.

The rise of non-communicable disease in the Arab world mirrors similar changes in the US, Western Europe, and Canada, the study said.

Among non-dietary risk factors, smoking stands out for its toll on health in the Arab world.

“In many countries, children can buy tobacco and smoke shisha, which is seen as a gateway to cigarette smoking,” the study said.

A study conducted by the same centre and published last month showed that Jordan topped Middle East countries in the prevalence of smoking among males and came third in terms of female smokers.

It showed that the rate of smoking among Jordanian men was 43.4 per cent in 2012, followed by Palestine (41.3 per cent) and Turkey (39 per cent).The prevalence of smoking among females in Jordan stood at 8.5 per cent, following Lebanon, which was ranked first with 21.2 per cent, and Turkey (13.6 per cent).“The Arab countries are in transition from places where infectious diseases are the main cause of concern to places where heart disease, cancer and diabetes are the main worries,” said IHME Director Christopher Murray in a statement posted on the centre’s website.

“Right now, in the low-income countries, they are suffering from a double burden of non-communicable and infectious diseases. And that causes an incredible strain on their health systems,” he added.

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