TopicsHealth & WellbeingA steep rise in major illness predicted with a call for investment...

A steep rise in major illness predicted with a call for investment in community services

There will be 2.5 million more people living with major illness in England by 2040, according to a projection by the Health Foundation.

The increase is nine times the rate at which the working age population (20- to 69-year-olds) is expected to grow over the same period, the analysis found.

Out of 20 major health conditions studied by the Health Foundation’s REAL Centre in partnership with the University of Liverpool, 19 are expected to increase in prevalence. This includes a rise of over 30% in cases of cancer, diabetes, and kidney disease.

Most of the projected increase (80%) will be among people aged 70 or over, with 20% among the working age population (ages 20 to 69).

The impact is expected to create strain on the NHS as it tackles improving care and quality of life for an ageing population. Of the conditions assessed, many of them are managed by primary and community care, such as mental health, chronic pain, and diabetes.

The Health Foundation says this shows an increased need for investment in general practice and community-based services, with a focus on prevention and early intervention.

Director of the REAL Centre Anita Charlesworth said:

‘Over the next two decades, the growth in major illness will place additional demand on all parts of the NHS, particularly primary care, where services are already under extreme pressure. But with one in five people projected to be living with major illness in less than two decades’ time, the impact will extend well beyond the health service and has significant implications for other public services, the labour market and the public finances.’

The 20 conditions assessed during the research were:

  • Dementia
  • Cancer
  • COPD
  • Atrial fibrillation
  • Heart failure
  • Constipation
  • Epilepsy
  • Chronic pain
  • Stroke/TIA
  • Type 1 and 2 diabetes
  • Alcohol problems
  • Psychosis or bipolar disorder
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Anxiety or depression
  • Coronary heart disease
  • Connective tissue disorders
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Asthma
  • Hearing loss
  • Hypertension

Perhaps surprisingly, the report suggests the improvements in poor health caused by the population smoking less and having lower cholesterol will be offset by the impact of obesity, as those who have been obese for long periods enter old age.

Image credit | Shutterstock


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