Morbidity vs. Mortality: What's the Difference?

Morbidity is any physical or psychological state considered to be outside the realm of normal well-being. The term morbidity is often used to describe illness, impairment, or degradation of health, especially when discussing chronic and age-related diseases which can worsen over time. The higher your morbidity, the shorter your lifespan may be that if you were healthy.

Morbidity vs. Mortality

Morbidity doesn't necessarily mean that your ill-health is immediately life-threatening. Over time, however, if an illness continues it may increase your risk of mortality (death).

While morbidity refers to your level of health and well-being, mortality is related to your risk of death. They are not the same thing.

Co-morbidity refers to multiple disorders occurring in the same person. While co-morbid conditions are not linked to the same cause, they may frequently occur together. For example, obesity, depression, and diabetes are often co-morbid, though they are unlikely to have the same cause. 

Most Common Morbidities

Heart disease, cancer, chronic lower respiratory diseases, stroke, Alzheimer's disease, diabetes mellitus, pneumonia and influenza, kidney disease and suicide accounted for almost 75 percent of deaths in the U.S. in 2013. Seven of the 10 leading causes of death are chronic diseases.

The prevalence of chronic disease remains steady, but the infectious disease has had an uptick in recent years thereby increasing morbidity. In addition to infectious diseases, foodborne illness, associated infections and sexually transmitted diseases also contribute to higher morbidity among Americans.

Safety and Prevention

Ways to lower morbidity rates include increasing screenings and early diagnosis which would lessen the length and impact of the disease on a person's quality of life. This would also lower complications and lower the mortality rates of certain diseases because early treatment is often the most effective.

Other ways to compress morbidity is through education and access to preventive healthcare. For example, a model to lower morbidity for pregnant women involves access to safe abortions, prenatal care throughout pregnancy, and postpartum care along with family planning education throughout.

A Word From Verywell

As people live longer, the focus on lowering morbidity is education throughout life to create healthy habits and monitor health outcomes. A critical step is to receive regular check-ups to promote lifelong health before any signs of disease occur.

Was this page helpful?
Article Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Arthritis Comorbidities.

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Leading Causes of Morbidity and Mortality.

Additional Reading
  • Morbidity. International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) Glossary of Terms used in Toxicology. US Department of Health and Human Services Public Information Sheet.