New evidence on health burden of ageing population

THE number of people aged over 65 years needing healthcare is expected to increase by 25 per cent over the 2015 figure – possibly reaching 2.8 million by 2025 in England and Wales.

Research funded by the British Heart Foundation and published in The Lancet Public Health journal concludes that the burden on society of disability will grow as a result of the rising number of people living into old age rather than an increase in ill-health.

The authors of the study highlight an urgent need for better disease prevention policies targeting poor diet, smoking, alcohol, high blood pressure and physical inactivity, as well as increased investment in health and social care.

The study modelled future trends in disability and life expectancy in England and Wales between 2015-2025 by estimating future rates of cardiovascular disease, dementia and other diseases and the functional disability they may cause (difficulty with one or more activities of daily living, such getting out of bed, bathing, dressing or eating).

Estimates suggest that the number of people aged over 65 will increase by almost a fifth (19 per cent) – from 10.4 million people in 2015 to 12.4 million people in 2025. For people aged 65 in 2025, life expectancy is projected to increase by 1.7 years to 86.8 years, but a quarter of later life is likely to be spent with disability (5.4 years after age 65).

Overall, dementia represents the biggest growing cause of disability and rates are predicted to increase by 49 per cent in people aged 65 or over between 2015-2025 – meaning that 699,000 people will have dementia care needs in 2025 (compared to 468,000 in 2015).

Lead author Dr Maria Guzman-Castillo from the University of Liverpool’s Institute of Psychology, Health and Society, said: “The societal, economic, and public health implications of our predictions are substantial. In particular, our findings draw attention to the scale of societal costs associated with disability in the coming decade.

“Spending on long-term care will need to increase considerably by 2025, which has serious implications for a cash strapped and overburdened National Health Service and an under-resourced social care system. More cost-effective health and social care provision will be needed, such as increased availability of institutional care, and better financial support – such as tax allowances or cash benefits – for family members providing informal and home care.”

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