Morbidity: Definition, Causes, Risk Factors, and More

Morbidity is defined as the state of physical or mental ill health or illness. In other words, it is multidimensional concept that describes health and disability. Morbidity measures range from physical to mental health problems. They include aspects such as the amount of time a person was unable to undertake their usual activities due to disability, the number of days that an individual felt ill or experience any kind of bodily pain, and other aspects of a person’s wellbeing. In other words, morbidity can be used to measure the burden of disease and mortality in a population.

The main cause of morbidity is the environmental, or external, exposure to a variety of hazards. Examples of environmental risk factors for morbidity and mortality include air pollution, occupational hazards, ultraviolet radiation, and food insecurity. Other factors associated with the development of morbidity can include socio-economic and health system factors, lifestyle, and genetic susceptibility.

Risk factors for morbidity and mortality include:

  • Age: Older age is associated with increased morbidity and mortality.
  • Gender: Men are more likely to suffer from morbidity and mortality compared to women.
  • Race: Certain ethnicities are statistically more likely to develop diseases and suffer from disabilities.
  • Income: Low-income families are more likely to suffer from morbidity and mortality.
  • Living environment: People in rural areas and developing countries are at higher risk of morbidity and mortality.
  • Lifestyle: Unhealthy behaviors such as smoking, drinking, and a lack of exercise are associated with increased morbidity and mortality.

These risk factors can interact in many ways. For example, a person with low socio-economic status and living in a polluted environment is at greater risk for developing certain illnesses or experiencing greater disability. Also, certain lifestyle choices such as poor dietary choices, exceeding safe drinking limits, and lack of exercise can interact with the other factors mentioned previously.

It is important to note that while the above risk factors can increase your risk for morbidity and mortality, they simply cannot predict or determine the likelihood of a person developing an illness or disability. Ultimately, morbidity is an individual phenomenon and is affected by a variety of factors.