Morbidity vs Mortality – Difference Between Morbidity and Mortality

Morbidity vs Mortality – Difference Between Morbidity and Mortality

The difference between morbidity and mortality is that morbidity relates to someone having a condition, whereas mortality relates to the number of deaths (or mortalities) that have resulted from people having a condition.

Today, we are going to provide you with an especially comprehensive rundown of these two commonly used medical terms because people often confuse them for each other. When it comes to medical reporting, for example, getting these words mixed up can render your statistics completely inaccurate and lead to confusion.

Read on for an analysis of the definition of morbidity vs mortality along with a quick reference table section to make their variations as clear as possible.

Definition of Morbidity – So What Is Morbidity?

The morbidity definition is a state of unhealthiness applying to anybody who has a disease or illness.

To have a morbidity quite literally means to be suffering from some kind of illness. Commonly, we refer to morbidity or morbidity rates when we are observing illnesses within certain demographics or sectors of the population.

The main difference between morbidity and mortality is that one is a state of being, whereas the other is an end result that comes as a consequence of being in that state. So, the state itself is the morbidity (the illness), but mortality is the end result (death) that has occurred from being in that state.

It is worth mentioning that you can have a morbidity without there necessarily being a mortality involved, but you cannot have a mortality without there first being a morbidity to precede it.

You will often hear news anchors or medical staff discussing morbidity figures. One prime example would be the recent Covid-19 outbreak, where the term morbidity has been used frequently. When we are using this term in relation to Covid-19, we are talking about the number of people who have contracted it. We are not talking about the number of people who have died from it.

The following sentence is likely similar to one of the statements you may have heard during the pandemic. “Morbidity rates across Europe have skyrocketed, especially in Italy, where 25% of the population is now thought to have contracted the disease.”

This sentence is simply saying that 25% of Italians have contracted Covid-19. When we hear that morbidity rates have skyrocketed, it simply means that a high number of people have contracted a certain disease or illness.

This helps us to easily separate morbidity vs mortality because they are both used in completely different tenses. One is used in the present tense, while the other is used in the past tense. The reason why is that mortality relates to something that has already happened, whereas morbidity refers to something that is currently ongoing. When we dive into the mortality definition, this will all make much more sense.

Another way that these two terms differ is in the manner that they are measured. Morbidity is measured using a number of complex scoring systems, with two of the most popular being SAPS II and SAPS III. This stands for Simplified Acute Physiology Score and is a grading matrix used to determine how serious a disease or illness is based on its impact on the body.

The other systems used for measuring morbidity revolve around similar themes. Here are some examples.

  • SOFA (Sequential Organ Failure Assessment)
  • Glasgow Coma Scale
  • APACHE II (Acute Physiology and Chronic Health Evaluation)

Mortality, on balance, is measured by the number of deaths per 1,000 people per year, and there is no specifically outlined scoring matrix involved. This is mainly because it is the most severe end result. Therefore, all we can really assess at the point of death is the cause in which case we are then delving into the territory of analyzing morbidity again.

We can, of course, analyze the impact of the morbidity, however, and determine precisely how it can lead to mortality occurring.

Definition of Mortality – So What Is Mortality?

The definition of mortality is the number of deaths that have occurred as a result of one or several people suffering from a morbidity (illness).

As you are already aware, the major difference between mortality and morbidity is that mortality specifically relates to the end result that comes to fruition after someone has suffered from a morbidity. It is used to refer to someone or several people in the past tense as it relates to something that has already happened as opposed to something that is ongoing.

Just like morbidity, you will hear the word mortality being used extensively at the moment simply based on current world events. We will give you a couple of sentences as examples so that you can make practical sense out of the term using language that you are already likely to have heard.

“The mortality rate in South American hospitals shows that this disease is rapidly on the rise.” Here is another good example. “Mortality rates resulting from Covid-19 have begun to slow down since the beginning of the pandemic, showing that vaccinations appear to be working effectively.”

The difference between the two words as illustrated by both these sentences is that the issue that is causing the mortalities (deaths) is the morbidity. The end result itself (death) is known as mortality. One is a cause, and one is a conclusion. Or you might prefer to view one as a beginning and one as an end. Figuratively speaking, either example would make sense.

Covid-19 is a morbidity as opposed to a mortality. The morbidity is what causes the mortality in some unfortunate circumstances. It is very important to clearly distinguish between mortality vs morbidity when reporting because the statistics relating to these words have completely different implications.

Many people would incorrectly assume that Covid-19 is a mortality because we are so heavily focused on death rates when we analyze and discuss it, but this thought process is erroneous. Covid creates mortality potential, but it does not guarantee that mortality will occur.

The mortality rates definition specifically relates to the number of people in an area who have died from a certain morbidity only. It is an incredibly vital statistic for determining the gravity of a certain disease or illness, and of the two terms, mortality is more severe and carries more serious connotations.

We can actually have an incredibly high number of morbidities in a certain area (for example, the common cold) without it being a major issue. We can use morbidity data to determine whether we may have problems in certain sectors, giving us the chance to roll out medications. This, in turn, will keep more people working and reduce the impact on the economy etc.

There are lots of great reasons for us to monitor morbidity. However, other than being able to provide medication and medical treatment in areas where it is required based on morbidity data, it is generally not a critical issue if morbidity rates are high within a sector or demographic unless we start to introduce the word mortality.

When we learn that there are a high number of mortalities in an area due to people suffering from a specific morbidity, that is when we can start to face critical issues. Covid-19 is again a great example to use because it was the mortality rate within certain sectors that led to us entering into a global lockdown.

When we learned that there was a high mortality rate as a result of people suffering from Covid-19, this ultimately led to us having to lockdown/quarantine in order to prevent the disease from spreading further, especially to sectors where mortality rates were at their highest.

If you are ever asking yourself the question what is mortality, then an easy way to remember what separates it from morbidity is to say that mortality is sometimes a consequence of morbidity. The more instances of mortality we encounter, the more serious a morbidity is, thus determining the kind of action we need to take to stop it from spreading.

What Is the Main Difference Between Morbidity vs Mortality?

We will now highlight the difference between mortality and morbidity in a quick reference table that will make it especially easy for you to remember their variations.

MeaningDeath or death rateIllness or number of illnesses
ConnotationsSevereLess severe
Used forReporting on the number of deaths occurring as a result of one or more morbiditiesReporting on the number of illnesses within one area or demographic
Measured byNumber of deaths per 1,000 people per yearSAPS II and III systems along with APACHE II and Coma Scale and SOFA among others
Positive impactAllows us to determine the seriousness of a morbidity and take critical action when neededAllows us to determine areas where acute medical focus may be required to support specific demographics and sectors of the population to avoid negative economic impact and reduce potential mortalities

Hopefully now you have a much better idea about the morbidity rate definition and how it is distinctly different from mortality.

So What Is the Difference Between Mortality and Morbidity? – Conclusion

Finally, you should now easily be able to answer the question what is morbidity and be in a position to effectively summarize the meaning of mortality without any confusion about what aspects of disease and illness these two words relate to.

If you ever get stuck when trying to form a summary of mortality vs morbidity, just remember that mortality is the end result of morbidity. Sometimes, a morbidity can lead to a mortality if it is of a serious or severe nature.

Next time you are analyzing a medical report, it should be significantly easier for you to interpret information on diseases and illnesses accurately.