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Disability Adjusted Life Year (DALY)


The Disability Adjusted Life Year (DALY) is a measure used in public health to quantify the burden of disease or condition by combining years of life lost due to premature mortality and years spent living with disability or disease. It represents the total number of healthy life years lost from both disability and death, allowing for a comparative assessment of the impact of different diseases or conditions on a population. The lower the DALY, the better the overall health and well-being of the population.

Key Takeaways

  1. Disability Adjusted Life Year (DALY) is a measure used to quantify the overall burden of a disease or health condition by combining the years of life lost due to premature death and the years of life lived with a disability.
  2. The primary purpose of using DALY is to prioritize the allocation of healthcare resources and evaluate the effectiveness of health interventions by comparing the difference in DALY values before and after the implementation of a program or policy.
  3. DALY calculations help identify and evaluate inequities and disparities in the distribution of disease burden across different population groups, allowing decision-makers to better address the specific health needs of vulnerable or disadvantaged communities.


The term Disability Adjusted Life Year (DALY) is important within the context of VA benefits as it serves as a comprehensive measure to quantify the overall burden of diseases and disabilities on veterans.

By accounting for both the years of life lost due to premature mortality and the years lived with disability, DALY allows policymakers and healthcare providers to better understand the challenges faced by the veteran population.

This in turn helps in prioritizing resources, designing effective interventions, and monitoring the progress made in addressing veterans’ health issues.

Ultimately, DALY plays a crucial role in ensuring the well-being of veterans and enhancing their quality of life.


The Disability Adjusted Life Year (DALY) is a metric used to measure the overall burden of disease on a population, by combining the years lived with disabilities (YLD) and the years of life lost (YLL) due to premature mortality. The primary purpose of using DALY in the context of VA benefits is to better understand the impact of various health conditions on veterans’ lives, such as cognitive and physical disabilities, as well as on society as a whole.

This tool assists in assessing the effectiveness of interventions or policy measures and helps prioritize resource allocation to reduce the burden of disease on veterans and the healthcare system. In practice, the utilization of DALY allows policymakers and healthcare providers to make more informed decisions about the allocation of resources and funding for various health programs.

When examining the impact of different medical conditions, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, or chronic pain, DALY aids in identifying gaps in care and areas that need greater attention. Moreover, it enables the development and implementation of targeted interventions that address the specific needs of veterans suffering from these conditions.

By using DALY, the VA can better understand the impact of disability and disease on the quality of life for veterans and ensure that they receive the support and care they deserve.

Examples of Disability Adjusted Life Year (DALY)

The Disability-Adjusted Life Year (DALY) is a measure used to quantify the overall burden of disease by combining the years of life lost due to premature mortality and years lived with disability. Here are three real-world examples of how the DALY concept has been employed:

Malaria:In a study conducted by the Global Burden of Disease (GBD) collaborative network, researchers assessed the global impact of malaria, a disease that continues to be a significant public health issue in many parts of the world. With the use of the DALY metric, they were able to quantify malaria’s impact on the lives and health of the affected population. In 2017, it was found that malaria caused approximately

1 million DALYs globally. The information gathered using DALY helped in informing policy decisions, resource allocation, and prioritization of disease prevention measures.

Air Pollution:The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that air pollution contributes to approximately 7 million premature deaths per year. Research conducted on the impact of air pollution has employed the use of DALY to measure its effect on population health. For example, in a study analyzing the health effects of air pollution in eastern European countries, it was found that between 1990 and 2016, the number of DALYs attributable to particulate matter in air pollution was significantly reduced from 485,000 to 282,000, demonstrating the effectiveness of implemented air quality improvement measures and policies.

Mental Health Disorders: The Global Burden of Disease study also evaluated mental health disorders, such as major depression and anxiety disorders, and their impact on the global population. In 2017, mental health disorders were the leading cause of non-fatal health loss, accounting for approximately 258 million years lived with disability. By using the DALY metric, researchers were able to highlight the need for more significant global resources and attention directed toward mental health disorders, breaking down the data by region, and enabling policymakers to allocate resources more effectively to address the burden of these diseases.

FAQ Section: Disability Adjusted Life Year (DALY)

What is the Disability Adjusted Life Year (DALY)?

The Disability Adjusted Life Year (DALY) is a measure of overall disease burden, expressed as the number of years lost due to ill-health, disability, or early death. It is designed to evaluate and compare the relative impacts of different diseases, disorders, and fatal injuries on human populations.

How is DALY calculated?

DALY is calculated by adding the Years of Life Lost (YLL) due to premature death and the Years Lived with Disability (YLD) due to a particular health condition. The formula for DALY is: DALY = YLL + YLD. It enables researchers and policymakers to assess the extent of disease burden and allocate resources effectively to address various health issues.

What is the role of DALY in public health decision-making?

In public health, DALY is used to prioritize interventions and allocate resources by comparing the burden of different diseases. By quantifying the overall impact of diseases on human populations, policymakers and healthcare organizations can make informed decisions about which health issues to focus on and invest in, thereby improving the efficiency and effectiveness of healthcare systems.

How is DALY used in policy evaluation?

DALY can be used to evaluate national and international health policies by considering the overall burden of diseases in the specific population. By assessing the change in DALYs due to different policy interventions, the impact of various policies can be compared and the success of their implementations evaluated.

What are the limitations of DALY?

While DALY is a useful measure in public health, it has some limitations. These include potential inaccuracies and biases in the available data, difficulties in accurately measuring certain aspects of diseases (e.g., severity, duration, and disability), and the inability to capture the full complexity of some health conditions. Furthermore, different cultural and ethical perspectives may influence the weighting and interpretation of DALY estimates, making it challenging to apply universally across different populations.

Related VA Benefit Terms

  • Health-Related Quality of Life (HRQoL)
  • Quality-Adjusted Life Year (QALY)

  • Years Lived with Disability (YLD)
  • Years of Life Lost (YLL)
  • Global Burden of Disease (GBD)

Sources for More Information