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14.7 Probabilities of recovery and death

Equations (1)-(4) required data on overall recovery and mortality rates for each effect, obtained for example from national health statistics. Note that these are overall probabilities for recovery or death within the remaining normal life expectancy, and not probabilities for recovery or death in the current year. This is because the directly attributable health loss method considers the total impact (over remaining life) of diseases that begin in the current year.

In some cases the probabilities of recovery or death may be dependent on personal attributes such as age or sex. It should also be considered whether they may be influenced by the intake of the substance causing the effect (e.g. a high intake might lead not only to a higher probability of getting the disease, but also to a lower probability of recovery and higher probability of death).

Note that the approach described here makes the simplifying assumption that individuals who recover regain full health, whereas in reality for some diseases there may be only partial recovery. Where this applies, its influence on the outcome may be explored by trying alternative assumptions, e.g. setting the probability of recovery to zero, and/or changing the disease weight to approximate an average of the disease severity over the remaining life.

An important uncertainty affecting the estimation of probabilities of recovery and death is that they may differ depending on the cause of the disease, in which case the probabilities for the general population (e.g. from national health statistics) may differ from those that would apply when the disease is caused by the dietary change under assessment. Further uncertainty is introduced if the dose-response for the effect is derived from animal studies, because it is then necessary to make an assumption about which human diseases the effect corresponds to, in order to make use of human data on recovery and mortality. The impact of all identified uncertainties should be considered when interpreting the results of the assessment (see section 15.1).