Contribution of chronic diseases to the mild and severe disability burden in Belgium

Population aging accompanied by an increased longevity with disability has raised international concern, especially due to its costs to the health care systems. Chronic diseases are the main causes of physical disability and their simultaneous occurrence in the population can impact the disablement process, resulting in different severity levels. In this open access article , Renata Yokota and colleagues investigate the contribution of chronic diseases to both mild and severe disability burden in Belgium. For this they use the data on 21 chronic diseases and disability from the 1997, 2001, 2004, and 2008 Belgian Health Interview Surveys. The study demonstrates how arthritis was the most important contributor in women with mild and severe disability between 1997 and 2008. In men, low back pain and chronic respiratory diseases contributed most to the mild and severe disability burden, respectively. Contributions also differed by age. The identification of diseases which are related to different levels of disability – mild and severe – can assist policymakers in the definition and prioritisation of strategies to tackle disability, involving prevention, rehabilitation programs, support services, and training for disabled individuals.