The impact of genetic variation on overall disease burden has not been comprehensively evaluated. We introduce an approach to estimate the effect of genetic risk factors on disability-adjusted life years (DALYs; 'lost healthy life years'). We use genetic information from 735,748 individuals and consider 80 diseases. Rare variants had the highest effect on DALYs at the individual level. Among common variants, rs3798220 (LPA) had the strongest individual-level effect, with 1.18 DALYs from carrying 1 versus 0 copies. Being in the top 10% versus the bottom 90% of a polygenic score for multisite chronic pain had an effect of 3.63 DALYs. Some common variants had a population-level effect comparable to modifiable risk factors such as high sodium intake and low physical activity. Attributable DALYs vary between males and females for some genetic exposures. Genetic risk factors can explain a sizable number of healthy life years lost both at the individual and population level.