A new study shows that anemia, a condition that makes people feel tired because their blood doesn’t have enough healthy red cells, was a problem for nearly 2 billion people in 2021.
Women were more affected than men. This study, which looked at anemia data worldwide for 30 years (from 1990 to 2021), found several key reasons for this.
The study was done by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) in Seattle and was published in a medical journal called The Lancet Haematology.
Dr. Nick Kassebaum, who led the study, said that while the overall picture around anemia has improved globally, there are still big differences based on location, gender, and age.
The study identified 37 possible causes for anemia. Dr. Kassebaum hopes that doctors will use this information to better treat their patients, especially those who are most at risk like women of reproductive age, children, and the elderly.
How Anemia Impacts Men and Women
In 2021, about 31.2% of women worldwide had anemia, compared to 17.5% of men.
The difference was even more significant among people aged 15–49. In this age group, 33.7% of women had anemia compared to 11.3% of men.
The study’s lead author, Will Gardner, said that while there’s been a lot of work done to reduce anemia globally, women and children have shown the least progress.
He believes the situation is complex and involves many factors such as access to good nutrition, socioeconomic status, need for birth control, and the ability to identify and treat the causes of anemia.
What Causes Anemia
The most common cause of anemia in 2021 was not getting enough iron in the diet.
This was the case for 66.2% of people with anemia, affecting 825 million women and 444 million men around the world.
Other common causes of anemia included gynecological disorders and maternal hemorrhage in women of reproductive age and, in children under five years old, dietary iron deficiency, certain genetic diseases, and infectious diseases like HIV/AIDS and malaria.
Dr. Theresa McHugh, who focuses on child health at IHME, emphasized that anemia affects different groups in different ways. For children, anemia can impact brain development.
For many young women and girls, there’s not enough knowledge about how to manage blood loss during menstruation and how to treat anemia.
Anemia Around the World
The study found that sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia are currently the areas with the most people affected by anemia.
In 2021, the places with the most people with anemia were Western sub-Saharan Africa (47.4%), South Asia (35.7%), and Central sub-Saharan Africa (35.7%).
On the other hand, the places with the fewest people with anemia were Australasia (5.7%), Western Europe (6%), and North America (6.8%).
When looking at specific countries, those with the most people with anemia were Mali, Zambia, and Togo (each had more than half the population with anemia).
The countries with the fewest people with anemia were Iceland, Norway, and Monaco (each had less than 5% of the population with anemia).
The study also noted that the cause of anemia varied by region. For example, in Southern sub-Saharan Africa, HIV/AIDS was the second biggest cause of anemia.
In Central, Eastern, and Western sub-Saharan Africa, malaria was a big cause of anemia.
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The study was published in The Lancet Haematology.
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