Difference between Morbidity and Mortality

Updated on October 3, 2017

Have you ever heard people confuse morbidity for mortality? It’s easy since they sound alike and there is a bit of difficulty telling them apart. Another reason there is so much confusion around them is that they are often used in the same context, like in news articles and reports. Here is how you can tell them apart.



Morbidity refers to the state of being unhealthy. It applies to people who are or who have been ill and is used as a factor for the demographic in a specific region. This means that when a news anchor talks about morbidity rates in a country, he refers to the number of people who were affected by a disease. If a person is suffering from two different diseases, the term used is “comorbidity.”

The units of measurement used for morbidity are SAPS II and III, APACHE II, Glasgow, Coma scale, SOFA, and PIM2. The data collected in these cases refer to age, gender, area, and disease type. As a variable, it helps health officials make risk management and adapt the national health system to the specific needs of the population. For example, in a country with a high incidence of morbid obesity, specific health programs need to be undergone.

Mortality is an index showing how many people in a specific population are dying. The term is normally used in the context of a disease and it is expressed in terms of the number of deaths per 1000 per year. When assessing the evolution of a population, scientists will usually look to maternal mortality, infant mortality, standardized mortality rate, child mortality rate, and age-specific mortality rate. This is another variable used by state officials to know how to intervene to improve the lives of its citizens.

In a different context, mortality is meant to describe a person’s mortal condition. This means that his life will eventually end and that there is nothing that can be done about it. The opposite is immortality, a characteristic attributed to gods in all mythologies.

Morbidity vs Mortality

So what is the difference between morbidity and mortality?

While both are terms used in national statistics and are indicative of life standards, morbidity refers to the incidence of disease in a population, while mortality refers to deaths in a population because of a disease. Morbidity is calculated according to various factors and standards, varying in terms of age, gender, area, and type of disease. Mortality can refer to child, infant, maternal, or age-specific groups.

Morbidity is measured with the help of different systems such as SAPS II and III, APACHE II, Glasgow, Coma scale, SOFA, and PIM2. Mortality measurements are expressed as a number of deaths per 1000 people per year.

Once they receive these numbers, health officials must take action and try to lower them. However, while people in the morbidity category can still be saved, the mortality numbers are an irreversible reality for many.

Comparison Chart

Refers to the incidence of disease within a populationRefers to the number of deaths registered on account of a disease
Is measured with systems such as SAPS II and III, APACHE II, Glasgow, Coma scale, SOFA, and PIM2Is expressed as a number of deaths per 1000 people per year
Is calculated according to age, gender, area, and specific diseaseRefers to different groups such as maternal, infant, child, and age-specific groups
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