Sobering statistics and investment ideas sometimes go hand-in-hand

When one of America’s favorite fast food chains unveiled a new product in Japan, some people wondered how long it would be before this fine innovation — a three-quarter pound, 1100 plus calorie serving of potatoes called Mega Fries— would reach our hungry shores.

Others deliberated on the ways in which higher consumption of nutritionally deficient foods may affect obesity rates and illness in countries around the world. They may even have done a Google search to ascertain which companies are working on cures for diabetes, developing treatments for heart ailments, or bio-engineering organ replacements. 

A key measurement in evaluating the ill effects of diseases and health conditions is the Disability-Adjusted Life Year or DALY. According to the World Health Organisation:

“One DALY can be thought of as one lost year of “healthy” life. The sum of these DALYs across the population, or the burden of disease, can be thought of as a measurement of the gap between current health status and an ideal health situation where the entire population lives to an advanced age, free of disease and disability…DALYs for a disease or health condition are calculated as the sum of the Years of Life Lost (YLL) due to premature mortality in the population and the Years Lost due to Disability (YLD) for people living with the health condition or its consequences…” 

It’s depressing to note that mental disorders and drug and alcohol abuse are the biggest drivers of disability. They account for more than 7 percent of DALYs. That’s more than diabetes, HIV, or tuberculosis, and almost as many as cancer. Globally, in 2010, depression and anxiety were responsible for about 11 million lost years of healthy life in the 20- to 24-year-old age group. Drug use also appears to peak at about this age. The number of DALYs for depression and anxiety appears to decline with age.