Table of Contents

Analysis of the Rate of Human Diseases, Problems and Conditions
Tables of Rate of Human Diseases, Problems and Conditions

Details on Converting Numbers to Rates


This is a list of diseases and other problems that affect humans, as well as some other conditions of humanity, and an estimate of their occurrence rate. "Occurrence rate" is defined as the percent of people who are affected at least once in their lifetime. (There were 147 items as of 14 December 1997, and may be more now.) I make no guarantees that any given estimate is correct - the estimates come from publications ranging from Science News (high accuracy) to newspapers (variable quality). For now, anyone wanting to know the source of a given estimate can email me for the reference. Eventually I'll add that, but it is more difficult now, since each estimate is part of a longer entry that I have saved. My entire "facts" file takes up over 100 KB, and contains article extractions that may be too large to constitute "fair use", so I would have to get permission to make those extractions available online.

The list is broken up into different sections only to give the reader an approximate indication at a glance of the order of magnitude of the occurrence rate. There is no other meaning to breaking up the list, and there is a continuous gradation from the end of one section to the beginning of the next section. For problems affecting only men or only women, I have used the rate for men or the rate for women to place those problems in the tables below since for half the population, that is the rate they will see. In general, I do not break the problems down into smaller groups, since that could quickly become a nightmare of differing estimates and result in a table that is less useful to most of us. I do sometimes make exceptions when such numbers were part of the source I was quoting for the general rate. Also, for conditions that essentially affect only a particular race, such as sickle cell anemia, I quote the rate for that race. I make some exceptions

In cases where one sex suffers a problem at a much higher rate than the other sex, the percentages may seem much higher to you than warranted by the numbers quoted. However, note that a further calculation must be done to convert rates for the general population to rates for that sex. For example, "10 million Americans - 85% of them women - suffer from incontinence" implies that 8.5 million women out of 125 million women, a rate of 7%, have that problem even though the rate for both sexes combined is 10 million out of 250 million people, a rate of 4% of the population.

Many diseases and problems increase strongly with age. I have used the highest rate, which usually occurs at the highest ages, to place those problems in the tables below, since if we are lucky, we'll get to that age.....

Estimates I have read come in three forms: a direct statement about the rate; a statement about the total number of people (usually Americans = citizens of the United States), or a statement about the number of people affected per year. I used the total population covered by the estimate to convert the total number of people into a percentage. I used a rough conversion of my estimate of the number of years in a person's lifetime for which they might have an independent chance of getting the affliction to convert that to a total number of people and then to a percentage. More details.

If anyone catches an error of where something goes, please email me.

These estimates could easily be wrong, for a number of various reasons. The errors on many of the estimates are surely as large as a factor of 2, arising from a combination of the following factors:

When I have encountered two very different numbers, I have given both if I cannot tell which one is correct. For example, the number of American women with silicone breast implants has been given as both 2 million and 1 million women, and I have reported both numbers below.

If you know of a better estimate for any rate, please email me.

Keep in mind the medical profession's dictum that "common things happen commonly", and that the vast majority of all the things listed below are almost certain to not affect you!

Analysis of the Rate of Human Diseases, Problems and Conditions

Having this list allows one to answer a few interesting questions about the rate of such problems. The full analysis is presented at Analysis of the Rate of Human Diseases, Problems and Conditions. Some of the key conclusions are:

Rate of Human Problems and Conditions

Absolutely everyone

Rate (%)Disease, Problem or Condition
100We all eventually die. Sigh.....

Essentially everyone (Rates of 60-100%)

Rate (%)Disease, Problem or Condition
>9910-20% of the population contracts flu each year, causing about 20,000 deaths in the U.S.
>99Sinus infections send Americans to doctors' offices 16 million times yearly.
>99Pneumococcus causes about 7 million cases of otitis media (middle ear infection) each year in the U.S.
>99Most people suffer 10-12 headaches a year.
>99Ninety percent of Americans catch a cold each year. Adults and teenagers average 2-4 colds per year; children get 6-8.
>9990.5 million Americans made emergency room visits in 1994.
9999% of us will be a victim of theft at least once in their lifetime, and 87% will have property stolen 3 or more times.
96Approximately 4 million Americans are infected annually by a 'zoonotic' disease [one contracted from an animal].
9696% of us have cavities; some 75% will experience gum disease.
92By age 75, 92% of the elderly have presbyopia.
90More than 9 out of 10 infants get roseola.
85Acne occurs in 80% of girls and 90% of boys during adolescence.
8080% of us will be a victim of violent crime at least once.
806 million Americans consult their doctors about back pain every year, and fully 80% of us have sought help for an aching back at least once.
7474% of Americans 25 or older are overweight, up from 71% a year ago and only 59% in 1986
65Gynecomastia (abnormally large breasts) affects 60-70% of males during puberty . . . and 15% of adult men.
601% of the population gets infected with salmonella each year.
605 million Americans arrive at emergency rooms with chest pain each year.
60Prostate cancer afflicts some 50-70% of men in Western countries by age 70.
Physicians in the US diagnose about 165,000 new cases of prostate cancer each year, and some 35,000 men die of it annually.

~50% of everyone (Rates of 40-60%)

Rate (%)Disease, Problem or Condition
56Arthritis was reported by 8.6% of women aged 15 to 44, 33.5 % of women aged 45 to 64, and 55.8% of women over age 65, 60% higher than for men.
54Men over age 65 have an average risk of 30%, and women 54%, of entering a nursing home sometime in the future.
52Up to 30 million American men are impotent, including one out of every three men over age 60. 52% of men ages 40-70 have had some form of the condition.
50One in two American adults reports trouble sleeping at least one night a week, and one in eight claims to sleep poorly at least four nights a week.
50Nearly half of everyone over 75 has cataracts, and nearly 20 percent of those between the ages of 65 and 75 have cataracts that interfere with vision.
50Half the population has bad breath some of the time.
50Almost one-half of the population aged 45 to 74 is missing all their teeth (1988 rate; in 2006 the U.S. rate is down to 25%)
50Alzheimer's Disease may affect almost half of the U.S. population aged 85 and older.
50Half of the population of children in the world are allergic, up from 20%.
48At least a million dog bites are reported each year, with twice that number estimated to be going unreported. More than 60% of the victims are children. Dog attacks are the most commonly reported childhood public health problem in the country.
4790 million Americans - 47% of the adult population - have only rudimentary literacy skills.
40Up to 40% of persons 60 and older could benefit from a device to improve their hearing.
40More than 1/3 of adults, 100 million Americans, are visually impaired without the aid of glasses of contact lenses. Near-sightedness (myopia) is suffered by 70 million Americans.
404 out of 10 people will be injured in a robbery or assault.

~30% of everyone (Rates of 20-40%)

Rate (%)Disease, Problem or Condition
3737% of males and 35% of females die from heart disease.
36About 7% of Americans experience "heartburn" (reflux of gastric acid back-up into the mouth) every day, and about 36% of people do so at least once a month.
35A 25-year-old professional male stands a 34.8% chance of suffering a long-term disability by age 65 (average duration of the disability is 26 months).
33One in three Americans are expected to contract some type of (cancer) in their lifetime. Cancer causes 22% of deaths.
33About 1 in 3 older adults are prone to occasional nights of sleeping poorly.
33About 1 in 3 women experience stress incontinence (involuntary passage of urine) during exercise.
33By age 75, 25% of men and 33% of women have developed symptoms of macular degeneration.
32Nearly one-third of Americans will suffer from at least one major mental illness during their lifetime. About a fifth of American adults experience some form of disorder affecting emotions, thoughts, personality or behavior during the course of a year.
3010-40% of Americans are infected with toxoplasmosis.
2725-30% of Americans smoke.
27There are an estimated 8,000,000 elderly Americans who suffer from glaucoma.
25About 25% of women over age 65 have an inflammatory condition of the thyroid that results in hypothyroidism.
25Roughly 25% of Americans suffer from a metabolic disorder called insulin resistance.
2424% of people surveyed complained of fatigue that lasts longer than two weeks.
24Heart attack is the leading cause of death for both men and women. Every year, 1.5 million Americans have a heart attack.
2222% of women said they had been coerced into a sexual encounter.
2020% of people who go to other countries get sick.
20Nearly 20% of all Americans over 55 have diabetes.
20One person in five suffers from cold sores.
20About 50 million Americans have dandruff.
20More than 50 million Americans suffer from seasonal and/or year-round allergies (about 22 million Americans have seasonal allergies).
20Nearly 20 percent of those between the ages of 65 and 75 have cataracts that interfere with vision.
20About 50 million Americans suffer from high blood pressure (10 million are unaware of it, and 25 million know they have it but don't control their high blood pressure.) More than 25% of men have hypertension.
201 out of 5 men has spent a night in jail.

~10% of everyone (Rates of 7.5-20%)

Rate (%)Disease, Problem or Condition
194% to 34% of all children complain of growing pains.
17An estimated 1 in 6 American adults suffers from chronic insomnia.
171 out of 6 people develop an actinic keratosis during their lifetime.
15More than 8% of the population suffers from panic attacks, and nearly 15% of the people in the U.S. suffer such attacks occasionally.
15200,000-900,000 Americans ages 10 to 49 have serious coughs caused by pertussis [whooping cough] each year.
1537 million Americans have high cholesterol.
13Latex allergy affects from 5-20% of all health-care personnel who wear gloves much of the workday.
12One in eight US residents develops kidney stones.
11Each year, about 440,000 babies are born prematurely in the US.
11Approximately 28 million [people in the US] suffer actual hearing loss.
11There are 700,000 or more new cases per year of skin cancer in the US. It is now the most common cancer in women in their 20s and 30s.
11One out of 9 US residents endures mild depression that is pronounced enough to affect their jobs and families.
10Severe depression [is] experienced by nearly 10% of all teenagers.
104-10% of the general population, with women making up 75% of patients - have reactions to cold so severe that reaching into the freezer or working in an air-conditioned office can trigger an attack of stinging cold digits.
10One out of every 10 Americans will have a peptic ulcer sometime during his or her life.
10Pneumococcus causes about 500,000 cases of pneumonia each year in the U.S.
10One in 10 Americans has some form of hearing impairment which affects their ability to understand speech and conduct normal conversation.
8An estimated 8% of 7-year-olds suffer from enuresis (bed-wetting).
8Over 675,000 people are bitten by cats each year.
820 million Americans suffer from visual impairments that cannot be corrected with glasses and 14 million have severe visual impairment not correctable by glasses.
84.8 million (up from 3 million) children in the US, 1 in 13, are asthmatic, together with 9.8 million adult asthmatics. It is the No. 1 chronic disease of children.
823% of black mothers are infected with bacterial vaginosis, 15% of Hispanics and 8% of whites.
88% of Americans have a gene variant that reduces the risk of lung cancer by about 54% among smokers.

~5% of everyone (Rates of 2.2-7.5%)

Rate (%)Disease, Problem or Condition
7The appendix causes trouble in about 4 of every 1,000 children under 14 and in one of 15 adults. Each year more than 250,000 Americans undergo an appendectomy.
7Nearly 14 million American adults - more than 7% of the population - have a problem with alcohol.
Perhaps 3 million people in the US over the age of 60 are alcoholics or drink too much.
7More than 10 million Americans - 85% of them women - suffer from incontinence.
7About 18 million Americans suffer from migraines at least once a year.
7About 17 million Americans agonize with [depression] to varying degrees
6The heart attack rate of about 150 per year for every 100,000 sedentary women fell to about 84, a 44% drop, in the most active women.
616 million Americans now have diabetes.
5Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, the most common psychiatric disorder of childhood, causes as many as 5% of children to be restless, inattentive and often disruptive in the classroom.
5Strokes are the nation's third leading cause of death after heart attacks and cancer. Strokes annually kill 200,000 Americans; nearly three-quarters are men.
5Acne affects about 5% of the adult population, even men and women in their 40s who never had acne in their teens.
410 million Americans [have] dry eye syndrome [which] makes them feel like their eyeballs are rolling around the Sahara Desert.
410 million Americans suffer from temporomandibular disorders [jaw pain], in one form or another, and 5- 10% of them have persistent problems.
4At least 10 million Americans are being treated for thyroid conditions.
4[There are] more than 9 million blind and visually impaired individuals in the US alone.
44% of Americans develop colon cancer.
3Eczema occurs in about 3% of the U.S. population.
3About 3% of American adults - 5 million - are considered severely mentally ill.
3Whiplash, a common neck injury, affects 120,000 Americans a year.
2.82.8% of men and 1.5% of women said they were homosexual or bisexual (see note).
2.72.7% of adults are behind bars, on parole, or on probation.
2.6One in every 33 infants suffers from some sort of birth defect
2.25% of babies are born with birth defects.
2.5In Western cultures, 1-5% of the population appears regularly to experience fantasies which seem as real as actual events, even though they are entirely fictional
2.22.2% of the population is a twin, since twins occur about once in every 89 births, making 2 people out of 90 a twin.

~1% of everyone (Rates of 0.33-2.2%)

Rate (%)Disease, Problem or Condition
2Obsessive-compulsive disorder affects as many as five million Americans. It occurs equally often in men and women and can strike at any age, thought it usually appears during late adolescence.
22% of the population is afflicted with Body dysmorphic disorder, or BDD, a preoccupation with an imagined or a slight defect so intense that some victims are incapable of functioning normally.
2Nearly 200,000 Americans must undergo dialysis or transplants each year because their kidneys have failed, and one-fourth of them die.
21-3% of females in many Western nations develop bulimia as teenagers or young adults.
2The rate of strokes fell 42%, from about 90 per 100,000 sedentary women to about 52.
1.81.8% of families lose at least one parent to death before the youngest child turns 18.
1.6There are an estimated 4 million deaf people in the US.
1.2An estimated 2 million American women have had silicone breast implants
About 1 million women have breast implants.
1.12.8 million Americans are color-blind.
1Lifetime risk for malignant melanoma is now 1 out of 120, and experts expect it to climb to 1 in 100 for whites. The rate of melanoma deaths rose by 34%, from 1.6 per 100,000 people in 1973 to nearly 2.2 in 1992.
0.8More than 2 million Americans have manic-depressive illness.
0.8About 2 million Americans in North America suffer with Crohn's disease and colitis, known as inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD). Some 1 million of those have ostomies, surgically formed openings that serve as the exit site for wastes to a pouch or bag outside the body.
0.8About 51,000 people annually are diagnosed with B-cell lymphoma, which attacks the lymph nodes.
0.8There are 2 million stutterers in the nation.
0.8Celiac sprue, a genetic disorder which affects the intestinal track if gluten is consumed, destroying its ability to absorb nutrients, affects nearly one of every 133 Americans
0.5About 1.2 million Americans suffer from chronic HBV infection.
0.5Each year approximately 40,000 people suffer sports-related eye injuries serious enough to require emergency room treatment.
0.4About a million Americans have Parkinson's Disease.

~0.1% of everyone (Rates of 0.033-0.33%)

Rate (%)Disease, Problem or Condition
0.3Sickle cell disease strikes one in every 375 African American children.
0.3About 40,000 corneal transplants are performed in the U.S. each year.
0.320,000 primary brain tumors are diagnosed in the U.S. each year.
0.14About one woman in 700 is a silent carrier of the fragile X genetic defect and thus at risk of bearing a mentally retarded child.
0.13300,000 - 350,000 Americans have multiple sclerosis (MS).
0.12Down syndrome strikes one in 800 people.
0.119,000 people die of oral cancer every year.
0.1250,000 Americans are afflicted by partial or total paralysis because of spinal cord injury.
0.1Blacks have less than a 1 in 1000 chance of developing malignant melanoma.
0.1Fragile X syndrome affects one in every 1,000 people.
0.05Pneumococcus causes about 3,000 cases of meningitis each year in the U.S.
0.04Cystic fibrosis strikes one in 2,500 people.
0.04Retinitis pigmentosa affects nearly 100,000 Americans.
0.040.04% of the population is a triplet, since triplets occur about once in every 7,900 births.
0.034Huntington's [disease] is one of the common inherited brain disorders. About 25,000 Americans have it, and an additional 60,000 carry the defective gene and will develop the disorder as they age.
0.0331 in every 300 adult males is a convicted and registered child molester in California.

~0.01% of everyone (Rates less than 0.033%)

Rate (%)Disease, Problem or Condition
0.029One in every 3,500 children is growth-hormone-deficient.
0.024Necrotizing fasciitis (flesh-eating bacteria) strikes 500 to 1,500 Americans a year, killing about 200.
0.0260,000 Americans suffer from Huntington's and 6 similar diseases, which interfere with the ability to walk and move and are eventually fatal, and perhaps twice that many carry one of the genes and will eventually develop symptoms.
0.022 out of every 1,000 children suffer from autism symptoms.
0.02Long QT syndrome, an inherited disorder that causes a rapid heartbeat, fainting, and sometimes death, affects as many as 1 in 5,000 people.
0.014One in 7,000 U.S. babies suffers from choanal atresia, a sometimes-fatal birth defect in which the membrane in the back of the nose doesn't form natural breathing holes during fetal development .
0.009[Chronic fatigue syndrome] strikes up to 9 in every 100,000 Americans.
0.008Phenylketonuria (PKU), a metabolic disease that eventually can cause mental retardation, affects about one in every 12,000 newborns.
0.005[Adrenal disease] afflicts 39 to 60 people out of every million.
0.00060.0006% of the population is a quadruplet, since quadruplets occur about once in every 705,000 births.

Converting numbers to percentages

Here is what I use to convert the number of Americans with problem X and number of Americans affected per year with problem X to a rough percentage of all people in their lifetime. The number 40 years below is a parameter, which I change for a given problem X by guessing how many years one might have the same rate of having problem X. You can easily derive what number of years I have assumed by working back from the percentage I quote. Examples:

Quick conversions of total number of people to percentages:

100% 250 million 40%100 million
90% 22530%75 million
80% 20020%50
70% 17510% 25
60% 150 5%12
50% 125 1% 2

Assuming rate per year times 40 years gives total number of people affected gives the following conversions:

2 million/year80 million
1 million/year40 million
500,000/year20 million
400,000/year16 million
300,000/year12 million
200,000/year8 million
100,000/year4 million
50,000/year 2 million
25,000/year1 million

Update log for rate of human problems and the rest of T. Chester's interesting facts.

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Copyright © 1996-2007 by Tom Chester.
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Last update: 4 March 2007.