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Number of elderly people with four or more diseases to double by 2035

A third of these people will be diagnosed with dementia, depression or a cognitive impairment.

Image: Pressmaster

THE NUMBER OF older people being diagnosed with four or more diseases will double by 2035, according to a new study.

The study, published in Age and Ageing, found that over the next 20 years there will be a massive expansion in the number of people suffering from multiple diseases, known as multi-morbidity.

As a result, two-thirds of the life expectancy gains – predicted as 3.6 years for men and 2.9 years for women - will be spent with four or more diseases.

A third of these people will be diagnosed with dementia, depression or a cognitive impairment.

Over the next 20 years, the largest increase in diagnoses will be cancer (up by 179.4%) and diabetes (up by 118.1%) in the older population, whilst arthritis will see the greatest rise in prevalence.

In the population over the age of 85, all diseases – apart from dementia and depression – will more than double in absolute numbers between 2015 and 2035.

“Much of the increase in four or more diseases, which we term complex multi-morbidity, is a result of the growth in the population aged 85 years and over,” Professor Carol Jagger, of Newcastle’s University, who led the study said.

“More worryingly, our model shows that future young-old adults, aged 65 to 74 years, are more likely to have two or three diseases than in the past. This is due to their higher prevalence of obesity and physical inactivity which are risk factors for multiple diseases,” she said.

Jagger noted that these findings have enormous implications for how we should consider the structure and resources for the UK’s NHS system in the future.

“Multi-morbidity increases the likelihood of hospital admission and a longer stay, along with a higher rate of readmission, and these factors will continue to contribute to crises in the NHS,” she said.

The authors said that patients with complex multi-morbidity need a different approach.

They concluded that a single-disease-focused model of health care is unsuitable for patients with multi-morbidity.

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