Researchers warn that doubling the number of elderly people with at least four different medical conditions by 2035 will put enormous pressure on the NHS.
Cancer, diabetes, dementia and depression will become more common and more people over 65 will mature, according to a study published on Tuesday at Newcastle university.
According to researchers at the university’s institute on aging, one in three people have been diagnosed with four chronic diseases, which can lead to dementia, depression or some form of cognitive impairment.
Over the years, the number of pensioners diagnosed with cancer has increased by 179.4 per cent, diabetes by 118 per cent and arthritis by a large margin.
“The absolute number of all diseases, in addition to dementia and depression, more than doubled between 2015 and 2035 among people over 85,” the researchers said.
The trend will mean that men and women will suffer from four or more diseases and that by 2035, two-thirds of life expectancy will increase – 3.6 for men and 2.9 for women.
“These findings have a huge impact on how we think about the structure and resources of the NHS in the future,” said Carol Jagger, professor of ageing epidemiology at the institute.
“Multiple morbidity increases the likelihood of hospitalisation, longer stays and higher rates of re-hospitalisation, which will continue to contribute to the NHS crisis.”
A large part of the increase in the number of people with four or more medical problems will sharply increase their population projections over the next few years to at least 85, a figure that health minister Jeremy hunt has warned will increase the NHS’s workload.
Jagger and her team also identified another age group with poor health.
More worryingly, our model shows that young people between the ages of 65 and 74 are more likely to develop two or three diseases than they were in the past, because their high rates of obesity and lack of exercise are a risk factor. “Illness,” adds jagger.
As part of the MODEM project, the research was funded by the economic and social research council and the NHS research institute’s national institutes of health.
Caroline Abrahams, time’s director of philanthropy, said: “this study highlights the importance of providing health and care services to the elderly. The increase in life expectancy in recent years is a major achievement, but it also means we need to shift our focus to helping people remain independent and as long as possible.
“As we age, our health and care needs tend to overlap and become more complex, and a more compassionate and intelligent way of caring for the elderly must be a priority for all of us.”
A NHS spokesman said: “this study is further evidence of the need for comprehensive treatment as the NHS now takes steps to better support a growing number of elderly people with multiple health problems.”