Future demand for social care is likely to be greater than anticipated as new data shows that people in England are living much longer in poor health than previous research has suggested.
The new report, written by the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Longevity, found that women, on average, are being clinically diagnosed with a significant long-term illness at the age of 55 – nearly nine years sooner than previous indications.
Meanwhile men are being diagnosed with a significant illness at the age of 56 – seven years sooner than anticipated.
Researchers from the University of Liverpool provided expert advice for the report, which is based on new NHS data.
It found that women are on average living for 29 years with chronic illness, whilst men are living for 27 years with these long-term health problems.
More concerningly, men and women in the poorest areas of England are on average developing these conditions at even younger ages – when they are 49 and 47 years old respectively.
The APPG said this data could indicate “major implications” for the NHS and social care system.
“It signals that the demand increases that are being experienced now in the NHS, and continuing as our society ages, are likely to be even greater than had previously been expected,” the report said.
“This also has large implications for local authorities, as people developing long-term conditions earlier in their lives will mean increased demand for social care.”
The report also found that the number of major illnesses suffered by older people will increase by 85% between 2015 and 2035.
And due to higher levels of need, older people in the poorest areas have 35% more spent on them by the NHS than older people in the richest areas.
Paul Edwards, director of Clinical Services at Dementia UK said the APPG report is a welcome step in the right direction in the fact that it acknowledges the health inequalities which are still rife in the population.
“In the context of dementia – one of the biggest health and social care issues of our time – we know that families have varying degrees of access to dementia specialist support to allow them to lead healthy and productive lives as far as possible.
“Preventing and reducing the risks and symptoms of the condition is key. Given that what is good for the heart is good for the brain, increasing health promotion around smoking cessation, dietary advice, reduced alcohol consumption and increased activity will help to reduce the monetary and emotional cost of dementia for all communities.”
The APPG said the new findings should be a wake-up call for politicians and policy makers to “get serious about prevention”.
“This deterioration in our national health can be slowed down or even reversed if we focus our efforts on where we can have most impact. For example, by greatly increasing identification and treatment of high blood pressure, and obesity, coupled with more vigorous measures to help people quit smoking and adopt healthier behaviours,” the report said.
Edwards agreed, adding: “It’s high time that the Government and all parts of society grab the nettle on this issue, building a system replete with jobs with supportive work environments as well as the right funding models to ensure that no family with dementia gets left behind.”