A recent study published in the Lancet Neurology journal has raised an urgent alarm, predicting a staggering 50% surge in global stroke-related deaths by the year 2050, reaching a staggering 9.7 million annually. This distressing projection underscores the pressing need for concerted efforts to combat this burgeoning health and economic crisis, particularly in lower and middle-income nations. The study emphasizes the necessity of bolstering stroke surveillance, prevention measures, and acute care while emphasizing the significance of aligning with the World Health Organization’s Sustainable Development Goal.
The research suggests that the number of individuals succumbing to strokes worldwide is poised to climb by 50% to a disconcerting 9.7 million deaths per annum by 2050. The associated costs could reach a staggering USD 2.3 trillion annually if immediate action is not taken. This impending crisis will disproportionately affect lower and middle-income countries (LMICs), resulting in profound health and economic repercussions.
The study, grounded in evidence-based guidelines, recent surveys, and extensive interviews with stroke experts across the globe, proposes evidence-backed practical measures to mitigate this impending global crisis. These measures encompass improving stroke surveillance, enhancing prevention efforts, optimizing acute care, and advancing rehabilitation services.
Over the past three decades, the number of stroke-related deaths, disabilities, and occurrences has nearly doubled on a global scale, with the majority of affected individuals residing in LMICs. Alarmingly, the prevalence of strokes in these regions is increasing at a faster rate compared to high-income countries (HICs).
Failure to address this crisis could jeopardize the achievement of one of the pivotal Sustainable Development Goals outlined by the World Health Organization—SDG 3.4, which aims to reduce premature deaths from non-communicable diseases, including stroke, by one-third by 2030. While fulfilling this goal would necessitate an investment of USD 140 billion in new expenditures between 2023 and 2030, the economic benefits are projected to outweigh the costs by a factor of ten.
Professor Valery L. Feigin, hailing from Auckland University of Technology, New Zealand, and co-chair of the Commission, asserts, “Stroke exerts an enormous toll on the world’s population, leading to the death and permanent disability of millions of people each year, and costing billions of dollars.” He further emphasizes that while predicting the long-term health and economic impacts of stroke is inherently challenging due to the inherent uncertainties, these estimates provide a stark warning of the escalating burden that lies ahead unless immediate and effective measures are taken.
The Commission’s authors employ the methods of the Global Burden of Disease (GBD) study to estimate the stroke burden between 2020 and 2050 across HICs, LMICs, major GBD world regions, and various age groups. Considering factors such as population growth and aging, their analysis suggests that the annual global death toll from strokes will surge by 50%, surmounting 9.7 million by 2050, up from 6.6 million in 2020.
In particular, LMICs are expected to witness a sharp rise in stroke-related deaths, exacerbating the disparity with HICs. The projection indicates a surge from 5.7 million stroke deaths in LMICs in 2020 to 8.8 million by 2050. Conversely, stroke fatalities in HICs are projected to remain relatively stable, hovering around 900,000 between 2020 and 2050. This alarming trend would result in LMICs accounting for 91% of global stroke deaths by 2050, up from 86% in 2020.
Asia bears the brunt of this impending crisis, with the region accounting for a substantial share of global stroke deaths—61% in 2020, translating to approximately 4.1 million deaths, and projected to rise to around 69% by 2050, equating to roughly 6.6 million deaths. Although the proportion is smaller, Sub-Saharan African countries will witness an increase in annual global stroke deaths from 6% in 2020 (approximately 403,000) to 8% (around 765,000) by 2050, according to Professor Jeyaraj Pandian, President-Elect of the World Stroke Organization and one of the lead authors of the Commission.
The Commission underscores the necessity of in-depth analysis to comprehend the driving forces behind this surge, including the escalating burden of uncontrolled risk factors, such as high blood pressure, coupled with inadequate stroke prevention and care services in these regions. In the absence of immediate action, Southeast Asia, East Asia, and Oceania could potentially witness an alarming increase of nearly 2 million stroke deaths, surging from 3.1 million in 2020 to approximately 4.9 million in 2050.
The study also highlights the divergence in stroke death rate reductions between age groups. While the global death rate among individuals aged over 60 years is projected to decline by 36% (from 566 deaths per 100,000 in 2020 to 362