(HealthDay News) — Anemia remains a considerable global health challenge, according to a study published online in The Lancet Haematology.

William M. Gardener, MPH, from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation in Seattle, and other Global Burden of Disease collaborators estimated the population-level distributions of hemoglobin concentration by age and sex for each location among 204 countries and territories from 1990 to 2021. Anemia burden was calculated by severity and associated years lived with disability (YLD).

The researchers found that the global prevalence of anemia was 24.3% across all ages in 2021, corresponding to 1.92 billion prevalent cases, compared with prevalence of 28.2% in 1990 and 1.50 billion prevalent cases. Variations in anemia burden by age, sex, and geography were large. Children younger than 5 years, women, and those residing in countries in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia were particularly affected. In 2021, anemia caused 52.0 million YLDs; the rate of YLD due to anemia decreased with increasing sociodemographic index. Dietary iron deficiency, hemoglobinopathies and hemolytic anemias, and other neglected tropical diseases were the most common causes of anemia YLDs in 2021 (cause-specific anemia YLD rate per 100,000 population: 422.4, 89.0, and 36.3, respectively), accounting for 84.7% of anemia YLDs collectively.

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“Anemia remains a major public health issue across the life course. The persistently high anemia burden — particularly in women of reproductive age and young children — underscores the need for renewed attention on accurately measuring the prevalence of anemia and its underlying causes,” the authors write.

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