Experts concerned as millions in the UK could suffer from major illnesses in 17 years: 'Catastrophic'

Experts predict that nearly 40% more Brits will suffer from major illnesses by 2040. They warn about a real epidemic of dementia, diabetes, cancer and depression that will unavoidably put unbearable pressure on the healthcare services.

Experts concerned as millions in the UK could suffer from major illnesses in 17 years: 'Catastrophic'
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Experts concerned as millions in the UK could suffer from major illnesses in 17 years: 'Catastrophic'

The Health Foundation, an independent charity and UK healthcare think tank has just released a ‘catastrophic’ forecast.

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Their latest report predicts that 9 million people in England will be living with major illnesses by 2040. This is 37% more than in 2019.

The conditions that cause the biggest concern are dementia, diabetes, cancer, heart failure, chronic pain, depression and kidney disease.

The negative changes will be driven by the ageing population, obesity, smoking, and poor housing and air quality.

Experts fear that the spike in these serious and hard-to-treat illnesses will have huge implications for the NHS, social care and public finances.

Here is what we know.

People will live longer but will be more ill, the latest report predicts

The Health Foundation warns that in a rapidly ageing population, the number of people living with serious illnesses will rise from almost one in six of the adult population in 2019, to nearly one in five by 2040.

The researchers used health and death records to look at the 20 health conditions that account for 65% of the healthcare burden in England.

Cases of dementia are expected to rise 45% by 2040, heart failure by 92%, cancer by 31%, diabetes by 49%, chronic pain by 32% and anxiety or depression by 16%.

While the average life expectancy by 2040 was projected to rise to 83.1 years, by the age of 70, people will have an average of three long-term conditions, rising to more than five by the age of 85, researchers said.

The change will impact the NHS in ways we have never seen before and also put a strain on social care and the public finances.

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Experts: Obesity is one of the key problems

The Health Foundation believes that longer lifespans mean that people are more likely to encounter ill health.

About 80% (2 million people) of the projected increase in people living with major illnesses will be among the over-70s.

Obesity is another serious factor.

Anita Charlesworth, from the Health Foundation, said that the last 30 years saw ‘doubled obesity levels’ in the adult population while there were “really concerning rates” among children too.

As many people who have been overweight for decades reach old age, they come with a ‘bouquet’ of conditions.

The report stated:

There is no silver bullet to reduce the growth in the number of people living with major illnesses. A long-term plan is needed to reform, modernise and invest in the NHS, alongside a bold new approach to investing in the nation’s health and well-being.

All the experts warn about the implications the ‘catastrophic’ change will have on the NHS.

Charlesworth said:

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.

They fear that other public services, the labour market and the public finances will be negatively impacted too.

According to Dr Sarah Clarke, the president of the Royal College of Physicians, ‘much of this illness is avoidable’ as it is caused by smoking, poor housing, unemployment, poor food and air quality, and obesity.

She calls for a strategy that ‘pulls at every policy lever available in order to build a healthier society and economy.’

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Sources used:

- The Guardian: '‘Catastrophic’ forecast shows 9m people in England with major illnesses by 2040'

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