Online lecture: "Ein Virus verändert die Welt"





Average detection rate of SARS-CoV-2 infections is estimated around nine percent

CoronavirusThe number of confirmed cases for the novel coronavirus disease COVID-19 officially issued by countries and widely commented on by national and international media outlets dramatically understates the true number of infections, a recent report from the University of Göttingen suggests. Dr. Christian Bommer and Professor Dr. Sebastian Vollmer from Göttingen University have used estimates of COVID-19 mortality and time until death from a recent study published in the Lancet Infectious Diseases to test the quality of official case records. Their data shows that the 40 most affected countries have only discovered on average about 9% of coronavirus infections by March 30th (compared to 6% two weeks earlier). Read more.

  • Hochrechnung sieht nur sechs Prozent der weltweiten Corona-Fälle erfasst. Der Spiegel, 04.2020. [→]

  • So hoch könnte die Dunkelziffer der Corona-Fälle in Bremen sein Radio Bremen, 04.2020. [→]

  • Dunkelziffer: Forscher schätzen schon 460 000 Corona-Fälle Süddeutsche Zeitung, 04.2020. [→]

  • Millions of coronavirus infections left undetected worldwide – study. Deutsche Welle, 04.2020. [→]

  • Video: Corona aktuell: Wie zuverlässig sind die Zahlen? ARD Morgenmagazin, 04.2020. [→]




Further media coverage [→]


Anaemia among men in India: a nationally representative cross-sectional study

Anemia Men 300/200pxAn international research team comprising of the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, the University Heidelberg, the Public Health Foundation of India, the University of Goettingen and more, analyzed the prevalence of anemia among men in India, how it varies across states and compared the findings with the prevalence among women regarding geographical and sociodemographic variation. This cross-sectional study analyzed data from a representative household survey from January 2015 to December 2016, carried out in India’s 29 states and seven Union Territories. This study included more than 106 thousand men and more than 633 thousand women. The findings showed, that men had a prevalence of any anemia with 23.2%, moderate or severe anemia with 5.1% and severe anemia with 0.5%. Men ranging from 20-34 years showed the lowest probability of anemia, which is a similar result to women across age groups. Socio-economic factors like less household wealth, lower education, rural areas, smoking and underweight increase the probability of anemia among men. The outcome showed, that the geographical and sociodemographic variation of anemia is similar regarding men and women, although many studies and interventions have focused on women and children. Future efforts in anemia reduction targeting men can be adjusted to the existing interventions reducing anemia among women.

  • ‘Anaemia among men a major public health problem’ The Hindu, 11.2019. [→]

  • 'Every fourth Indian man has anaemia: Lancet study' Hindustan Times, 11.2019. [→]

  • Anaemia in men: Nearly quarter affected Deccan Herald, 11.2019. [→]



Inadequate care for high blood pressure patients along the treatment system

blood pressureA research team composed of academics from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, the University of Göttingen and the Medical Faculty of Heidelberg and various partner institutions from study countries analyzed the healthcare of hypertension in 44 low- and middle-income countries. They used a model known as the “cascade methodology”. The researchers found that less than half of those affected are diagnosed with high blood pressure. Only 30 percent of these patients are treated and only one tenth have the disease under control. "High blood pressure can be treated relatively well and cheaply," says Sebastian Vollmer, Professor of Development Economics at the University of Göttingen. "Undiagnosed or untreated hypertension, on the other hand, is a considerable risk for the people affected and can lead to significant complications, including death.”

  • 'Most hypertension patients in poor countries suffer silently'. The Guardian Tanzania, 07.2019. [→]

  • Versorgung im Globalen Süden schlecht Ärzte Zeitung, 07.2019. [→]



EASAC report “The imperative of climate action to protect human health in Europe”

KlimawandelProf. Dr. Vollmer was part of a European Academies’ Science Advisory Council (EASAC) working group on climate change and health. He was nominated by the National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina. The new EASAC report “The imperative of climate action to protect human health in Europe” highlights an alarming range of health risks due to climate change, and the benefits of rapid phase out of fossil fuels. The scientists elaborated different pathways that will lead to increased health risks if no urgent action is taken to reduce greenhouse emission.
The pathways are increased exposure to high temperatures and extreme events such as floods and droughts, air pollution and allergens; Weakening of food and nutrition security; Increased incidence and changing distribution of some infectious diseases (including mosquito-borne, food-borne and water-borne diseases); Growing risk of forced migration;
The solutions proposed by the scientists of the EASAC were decarbonization of the economy, healthier diets, climate-smart food systems, strengthening communicable disease surveillance and response systems. Furthermore, the impacts of climate change should not only be viewed on the European level, but rather on the global level.

  • Climate crisis seriously damaging human health, report finds. The Guardian, 06.2019. [→]

  • Fossil fuel ban ‘would save 30,000 lives a year in UK’ The Times, 06.2019. [→]

  • Climate change is seriously threatening human health CNN, 06.2019. [→]

  • Europas Akademien warnen vor Klimaveränderungen Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 06.2019. [→]

  • Klimawandel kostet Gesundheit - Aber noch können wir handeln CNN, 06.2019. [→]

Further media coverage [→]


Variation in health system performance for managing diabetes among states in India: A cross-sectional study of individuals aged 15 to 49 years

Diabetes_4In this study, Prenissl et al. determined the proportion of adults with diabetes in India who have reached each step of the care cascade. Moreover, they analyzed the variation of these cascade indicators among states and socio-demographic groups. This analysis included 729,829 participants. Among those with diabetes (19,453 participants), 52.5% (95% CI, 50.6–54.4%) were “aware”, 40.5% (95% CI, 38.6–42.3%) “treated”, and 24.8% (95% CI, 23.1–26.4%) “controlled”. Living in a rural area, male sex, less household wealth, and lower education were associated with worse care cascade indicators. The greatest loss in the care cascade takes place at the awareness stage.

  • 50% Indians with BP, diabetes don’t know they have it Deccan Herald, 05.2019. [→]

  • Study on diabetes warns lack of awareness & control a worry The Hindu, 05.2019. [→]

  • 50% hypertension patients unaware The Pioneer, 05.2019. [→]

  • Ignorance is bliss: how Indians don't know about their diabetes The Telegraph, 05.2019. [→]



Hypertension screening, awareness, treatment, and control in India: A nationally representative cross-sectional study among individuals aged 15 to 49 years

indian_adult_kl Non communicable diseases are increasingly important in low and middle income countries worldwide. This study analyzed health care systems in 44 low and middle-income countries focusing on the performance of hypertension care. Thus, only 45 percent of people are aware of their diagnosis, as this first large-scale population-based study of hypertension care shows. The study is based on STEPS-data of the World Health Organization (WHO) and other nationally representative data. The findings highlight the vital need for improvements in several health care systems. It shows, that less than half of those who are affected are diagnosed with hypertension. Treatment is given to one-third of the patients and only one-tenth gained control of the disease. Hypertension is a major risk factor regarding stroke, heart attacks, and resulting deaths. Lacking awareness and insufficient treatment have lifted hypertension to one of the most common non-communicable diseases. Besides the improvement of health systems and treatment, awareness and information of the public have to be raised. Thus promising diagnosis, treatment and easy control of this disease, the results picture a low performance in several healthcare systems.

  • ‘Indian adults are unaware they are ailing from hypertension’ The Hindu, 05.2019. [→]

  • Indian not aware they are suffering from Hypertension DeccanHerald, 05.2019. [→]

  • Majority of Indians devoid of hypertension treatment: Study Live Mint, 05.2019. [→]

  • This segment of Aapki Khabar Aapka Fayada brings to you special attention on Hypertension. Hypertension is also known as high blood pressure. Zee Business (YouTube), 05.2019. [→]



Prof. Sebastian Vollmer commented on the Indian health reform for the magazine corporAID



Prof. Sebastian Vollmer was invited by SynTalk (Mumbai, India) as a SynTalkr for #TPPP (The Public Private Puzzles, February 23, 2019)




Latest Thinking (lt.org): What is the Global Economic Burden of Diabetes




Geographic and sociodemographic variation of cardiovascular disease risk in India: A cross-sectional study of 797,540 adults

cardiac_klThis study aimed to determine how Cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk—and the factors that determine risk—varies among states in India, by rural-urban location, and by individual-level sociodemographic characteristics. For that purpose, two large household surveys carried out between 2012 and 2014, which included a sample of 797,540 adults aged 30 to 74 years across India were used. Different risk scores were used as outcome variables, that were: the Framingham risk score, Harvard–NHANES, Globorisk, and WHO–ISH scores. CVD risk tended to be highest in North, Northeast, and South India. Similarly, household wealth quintile and living in an urban area were positively associated with CVD risk among both sexes, but the associations were stronger among women than men. Also, for our other sociodemographic characteristics, we found significant differences.

  • ‘16% adults in Karnataka at risk of heart diseases Deccan Herald, 06.2018. [→]

  • Why heart disease risk varies across states: wealth, facilities, other reasons The Indian Express, 06.2018. [→]

  • 'Wealthy, educated Indians more at heart disease risk' Times of India, 06.2018. [→]

  • Scientists decode cardiovascular risk of Indians Nature India, 06.2018. [→]



Launch of Lancet Commission on Diabetes in sub-Saharan Africa

DiabetesIn 2014, The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology Commission on Diabetes in sub-Saharan Africa convened a team of academics, clinicians, economists, and people who work in governmental and non-governmental organisations to identify targets and milestones for diabetes, and ways of strengthening health systems in sub-Saharan Africa to make cost-effective intervention possible. As part of this team, Prof. Dr. Sebastian Vollmer, Christian Bommer, Esther Heesemann and Vera Sagalova from Göttingen University have contributed to the Commission's work from a health economics point of view. The findings of the Commission are summarized in a peer-reviewed scientific report published in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology.

  • Diabetes taking growing toll on Africa. The Independent, 07.2017. [→]

  • Diabetes taking growing toll on Africa: Report. The Straits Times, 07.2017. [→]

  • Diabete e obesità le nuove malattie urbane. La Repubblica, 07.2017. [→]



Diabetes and hypertension in India: A nationally representative study of 1.3 million adults

hypertension_klIn this paper we addressed the question of how the prevalence of diabetes and hypertension in India vary by geographical area and sociodemographic characteristics. The conducted population-based study was cross-sectional and nationally representative. It was carried out between 2012 and 2014. A total of 1.320.555 adults 18 years or older with plasma glucose (PG) and blood pressure (BP) measurements were included in the analysis. The main outcome variables were diabetes and hypertension. The crude prevalence of diabetes and hypertension was 7.5% (95% CI, 7.3%-7.7%) and 25.3% (95% CI, 25.0%-25.6%), respectively. Being in the richest household wealth quintile compared with being in the poorest quintile was associated with only a modestly higher probability of diabetes (rural: 2.81 percentage points; 95% CI, 2.53-3.08 and urban: 3.47 percentage points; 95% CI, 3.03-3.91) and hypertension (rural: 4.15 percentage points; 95% CI, 3.68-4.61 and urban: 3.01 percentage points; 95% CI, 2.38-3.65). There were large differences in diabetes and hypertension rates between states. Education seemed to have a rather negligible effect.

  • Diabetes, hypertension rates high in India, says a new study. The Tribune, 01.2018. [→]

  • Study: Six per cent have diabetes, 20-25 per cent hypertension. Indian Express, 01.2018. [→]

  • We are facing a silent epidemic. ‘Disturbingly high rates of diabetes’ found in India. Hindustan Times, 01.2018. [→]

  • Bittersweet truth: More than 1.3 mn Indians are suffering from diabetes . Economic Times of India, 01.2018. [→]

  • Diabetes, hypertension rates high in India: study. Deccan Herald, 01.2018. [→]



Prof. Sebastian Vollmer was interviewed by detektor.fm: Indien beim Weltwirtschaftsforum




The Global Economic Burden of Diabetes in Adults aged 20 to 79: A Cost-of-Illness Study

diabetes2_klThe WHO 2016 Global Report on Diabetes estimates that over 420 million adults are living with diabetes. The growing prevalence of diabetes, specifically in low- and middle-income countries, reveals the massive shifts in health trends since the 1990s. In cooperation with an international team of scientists, economists Christian Bommer, Esther Heesemann, Vera Sagalova and Prof. Sebastian Vollmer from the University of Göttingen have calculated that in 2015 the worldwide economic burden of diabetes reached $1.3 trillion or 1.8 percent of the global GDP. The results of the study are published in the Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology. In a follow-up study that was published in Diabetes Care the team has projected the global economic burden of diabates until 2030. The economic burden is projected to increase even under the most optimistic scenario that SDG targets are met.

  • Ausmaß des Problems Diabetes unterschätzt. Göttinger Tageblatt, 04.2017. [→]

  • Diabetes kostet weltweit rund 1,3 Billionen Dollar pro Jahr. Ärzteblatt, 05.2017. [→]

  • We Need A Moonshot For Diabetes Prevention, Part One: The Case For Action. Forbes, 01.2019. [→]

  • Gastos do Brasil com diabetes podem dobrar na próxima década, diz estudo britânico. BBC Brasil, 03.2018. [→]



The Association of Parental Education with Childhood Undernutrition in Low- and Middle-Income Countries: Comparing the Role of Paternal and Maternal Education

schoolchildren_klA team comprising Sebastian Vollmer, Christian Bommer, Aditi Krishna, Kenneth Harttgen and SV Subramanian systematically investigated the differences in maternal and paternal education and their association with childhood undernutrition. For this paper, they used 180 Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) from 62 countries, and covering the years 1990 to 2014, they show that both higher maternal and paternal education levels are associated with lower childhood undernutrition with maternal education being the stronger determinant in specifications failing to adjust for household wealth and local area characteristics. However, when these controls are introduced, the observed differences are strongly weakened or disappear entirely. The findings suggest that paternal education is also an important factor for reducing childhood undernutrition and should therefore receive increased attention in the literature.

  • Bildung der Eltern ist für Kindergesundheit wichtig. Göttinger Tageblatt, 08/2016. [→]

  • Paternal education as important as maternal education in reducing childhood undernutrition: study. Live Mint, 08/2016. [→]

  • Why do children become stunted? Harvard Chan School News, 08/2016. [→]



Monks, Gents and Industrialists : the Long Run Impact of the Dissolution of the English Monasteries

monastery_klIn the late medieval period the overwhelming majority of land in England was held by the Crown, the Aristocracy and the Church. In two acts passed in 1532 and 1534 Parliament made Henry VIII, head of the Church. At first, Henry’s objective was to redirect the revenues that the monastries paid to the Pope to himself. So, he ordered a survey of church incomes the Valor Ecclesiasticus just shortly before it was decided to dissolve all monasteries. This paper investigated the long-run economic impact of the Dissolution of the monasteries in England. To measure the impact of the Dissolution at the parish level we digitized the Valor Ecclesiasticus. We then showed that the greater was monastic income according to the Valor, the more industrialization there was in 1838 in terms of the presence and number of textile mills and the number of mill employees. We also showed that greater levels of monastic income in 1535 were associated with a smaller proportion of the labor force employed in agriculture according to the 1831 Census, and a larger share of the labor force employed in manufacturing and retail. Furthermore, we explored some of the likely channels via which the Dissolution might have impacted industrialization.

  • How Henry VIII started the age of industry. The Times, 11/2015. [→]

  • "Monks, Gents and Industrialists : the Long Run Impact of the Dissolution of the English Monasteries". Alternatives Economiques, 10/2015. [→]

  • How Henry VIII kickstarted the age of industry. Business Spectator, 11.2015. [→]

  • Two centuries of economic development courtesy of the Industrial Revolution. Sydney Morning Herald, 12/2016. [→]



HIV surveys in older adults: better data, better health

hiv_klMost nationally representative HIV surveys, including those of the Demographic and Health Surveys Programme, limit eligibility for HIV testing to adults younger than 50 years or 55 years of age. These age limits reflect the belief that HIV is a disease acquired in youth and with consequences in middle age. However, as the epidemic evolves, information about HIV in older people will become essential, and age limits for surveys should be removed for six reasons which we discuss in the paper.

  • Mehr ältere HIV-Infizierte in Studien! Ärztezeitung, 02/2015. [→]

  • Aids: Göttinger Wissenschaftler für veränderte Altersgrenze bei Erhebungen. HNA, 02/2015. [→]

  • Wissenschaftler der Uni Göttingen fordern eine Ausweitung von HIV-Tests auf ältere Menschen. Stadtradio, 02/2015. [→]



Association between economic growth and early childhood undernutrition: evidence from 121 Demographic and Health Surveys from 36 low-income and middle-income countries

children_kl In this paper, evidence has been provided that merely economic growth is not enough for the improvement of early childhood undernutrition. The sample consisted of nationally representative cross-sectional surveys of children aged 0–35 months, and the outcome variables were stunting, underweight, and wasting. The main independent variable was per-head gross domestic product (GDP) in constant prices and adjusted for purchasing power parity. Logistic regression models were run to estimate the association between changes in per-head GDP and changes in child undernutrition outcomes. Models were adjusted for country fixed effects, survey-year fixed effects, clustering, and demographic and socioeconomic covariates for the child, mother, and household. A quantitatively very small to null association was observed between increases in per-head GDP and reductions in early childhood undernutrition. The findings emphasize the need for direct health investments to improve the nutritional status of children in low-income and middle-income countries.

  • Growth Versus Distribution: Hunger Games. New York Times, 03/2014. [→]

  • A Booming Economy Doesn't Save Children From Malnutrition. NPR, 03/2014. [→]

  • Economic growth alone will not alleviate poor nutrition in developing countries, concludes study.BMJ, 2014. [→]

  • Despite Economic Growth, Childhood Malnutrition Not Improving in Developing Nations JAMA, 03/2014. [→]

  • Kinder trotz Wirtschaftswachstums unterernährt. Handelsblatt, 03/2014. [→]

  • Hungrig trotz Boom. Süddeutsche Zeitung, 03/2014. [→]
Further media coverage [→]


An African Growth Miracle? Or: What do Asset Indices Tell us about Trends in Economic Performance?

african_index_klUsing changes in the possession of household assets over the past 20 years, several recent papers have argued that economic growth and poverty reduction in Africa was substantially better than suggested by national income data and income poverty statistics, which suffer from well-known weaknesses. In this paper, we scrutinize these claims and first argue that trends in assets provide biased proxies for trends in incomes or consumption. In particular we show that the relationship between growth in assets and growth in incomes or consumption is extremely weak; instead, we find evidence of asset drift using macro and micro data, which is consistent with the claims we make about possible biases in the use of asset indices. As a result, we find no evidence supporting the claim of an African growth miracle that extends beyond what has been reported in official GDP/capita and consumption figures.

  • Has the African Growth Miracle Already Happened? The World Bank, 01/13. [→]


Long-Run Trends of Human Aging and Longevity

senior_kl In this paper, we ask whether future improvements of life expectancy will be bounded from above by human life span. Life span, in contrast to life expectancy, is conceptualized as a biological measure of longevity driven by the intrinsic rate of bodily deterioration. From these observations, it should be clear that life span, in contrast to life expectancy, cannot be defined as a mere statistical measure without biological foundation. Hence, we have introduced to the economic science a theoretical foundation of human life span based on two strong empirical regularities, the Gompertz–Makeham law and the compensation effect of mortality. Our results showed that contemporaneous humans start out as young adults much more healthy than their forefathers a century ago but they are also aging faster. For a long time of our history, this trend was consistent with the observation of rising life expectancy under an invariant life span. If life span was indeed immutable, as it presumably is for other animals, future improvements in life expectancy would soon end. Life expectancy, as we have shown in this paper, is bounded from above by life span. For the second half of the twentieth century, however, we were able to present evidence for an expanding life span of about 8 years.

  • The physiological limits of life: Will humans one day live to the age of 150 years? The World Bank, 12/2015. [→]

  • The physiological limits of life: Will humans one day live to the age of 150 years? Brookings, 12/2015. [→]



Prof. Sebastian Vollmer was involved in the exhibition "on/off. Vom Nobelpreis und den Grenzen der Wissenschaft" at the University of Göttingen, which is now available online (in German)