Diseases of affluence is a term sometimes given to selected diseases and other health conditions which are commonly thought to be a result of increasing wealth in a society. Also referred to as the "Western disease" paradigm, these diseases are in contrast to so-called "diseases of poverty", which largely result from and contribute to human impoverishment.
They may also be considered to include depression and other mental health conditions associated with increased social isolation and lower levels of psychological well being observed in many developed countries. Many of these conditions are interrelated, for example obesity is thought to be a partial cause of many other illnesses.
In contrast, the diseases of poverty tend to be largely infectious diseases, or the result of poor living conditions. These include tuberculosis, asthma, and intestinal diseases. Increasingly, research is finding that diseases thought to be diseases of affluence also appear in large part in the poor. These diseases include obesity and cardiovascular disease and, coupled with infectious diseases, these further increase global health inequalities.
Diseases of affluence are predicted to become more prevalent in developing countries as diseases of poverty decline, longevity increases, and lifestyles change. In 2008, nearly 80% of deaths due to NCDs — including heart disease, strokes, chronic lung diseases, cancers and diabetes — occurred in low- and middle-income countries.
Factors associated with the increase of these conditions and illnesses ironically appear to be things that are a direct result of technological advances. They include:
Less strenuous physical exercise, often through increased use of motor vehicles
Irregular exercise as a result of office jobs involving no physical labor.
Easy accessibility in society to large amounts of low-cost food (relative to the much-lower caloric food availability in a subsistence economy)
More food generally, with much less physical exertion expended to obtain a moderate amount of food
More high fat and high sugar foods in the diet are common in the affluent developed economies of the late-twentieth century
Reduced exposure to infectious agents throughout life (this can result in a more idle and inexperienced immune system [as compared to an individual that experienced relatively frequent exposure to certain pathogens in their time of life])