Health Loss in New Zealand 1990–2013

A report from the New Zealand Burden of Diseases, Injuries and Risk Factors Study

Published online: 
04 August 2016
Health Loss in New Zealand 1990–2013.


This report analyses health loss and health expectancy in New Zealand from 1990 to 2013.

Information on health loss and health expectancy makes it possible to see the big picture:

  • understand trends in health loss by age and sex
  • compare the impacts of different diseases, injuries and risk factors on population health
  • assess what proportion of health loss is attributable to known modifiable risk factors, and is therefore potentially preventable
  • compare trends in life expectancy with the corresponding trends in health expectancy – are we succeeding in adding life to years as well as years to life?

Health loss is measured in disability-adjusted life years (DALYs). One DALY represents the loss of one year lived in full health. Health expectancy is a generalisation of life expectancy that estimates how long a person can expect to live in good health.

Key findings

  • New Zealanders lose approximately one million DALYs per year. However, health loss has been declining by approximately 1.2% per year on average over the past quarter century – meaning that health has been improving.
  • In 2013 long-term conditions (chronic physical and mental disorders) accounted for 88% of DALYs; injuries for 8%; and infectious diseases, nutritional deficiency disorders and disorders of infancy for the remaining 4%.
  • Over one third of DALYs are attributable to modifiable risk factors. Diet is the leading modifiable risk factor, accounting for 9.4% of total DALYs, followed by overweight and obesity (9.2%) and tobacco use (8.7%).
  • Life expectancy has increased over the past quarter century, as has health expectancy. However, life expectancy has increased faster – so years lived in poor health have also increased.

This report was produced by the Ministry of Health, drawing on work done by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, University of Washington, which hosts the Global Burden of Disease project. This ensures best use of the New Zealand data, along with optimal standards and statistical models, so maximising comparability with the results for other high income countries.

At present, results are available by age and sex, at a national level only. Starting from the next report (scheduled for publication in 2018), analysis by Māori–non-Māori ethnicity will also be attempted.

Publishing information

  • Date of publication:
    04 August 2016
  • ISBN:
    978-0-947515-39-3 (online)
  • HP number:
  • Citation:
    Ministry of Health. 2016. Health Loss in New Zealand 1990–2013: A report from the New Zealand Burden of Diseases, Injuries and Risk Factors Study. Wellington: Ministry of Health.
  • Ordering information:
    Only soft copy available to download
  • Copyright status:

    Owned by the Ministry of Health and licensed for reuse under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Licence.

Back to top