Our physical health and our mental health are the most important assets that we have. A problem arising in either of them can have significant consequences for all areas of our life, whether it be our relationships, our employment or general enjoyment of life.
Our population is both increasing and ageing due to people living longer. This presents us with many challenges including increased demand for our health and care services.
There is a growth in the numbers of people with one or more Long Term Health Conditions, LTCs. LTCs include things like obesity, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart and lung disease, and anxiety and depression. All of these have an adverse impact on quality of life.
Levels of obesity are now so high, including in children, that associated conditions, such as diabetes and high blood pressure, are occurring at younger ages.
Whilst some LTCs cannot be predicted, these that I have mentioned are largely preventable. Even if you have one, there are actions you can take to slow any deterioration or even reverse the condition by making appropriate lifestyle choices.
Long Term Conditions affect 14% of the population under the age of 40 but the proportion affected rises to 58% over the age of 60 years. Currently 15 million people, around one quarter of the UK population, have at least one Long Term Condition.
Crucially, 70% of the whole health and care budget is spent on managing and treating people with LTCs.. This leaves just 30% to pay for all the other health and care services we need such as GPs, A&E, maternity, elective surgery and so on.
The NHS is already experiencing significant funding and staff shortage crises, and is struggling to cope with the existing demand for health and care services. The current situation is unsustainable and we are already seeing rationing of certain services taking place across the country.
The problem can’t be solved by simply providing more money.
Adding to this concern, over the period from 2016-2037, the proportion of the population in work, and hence paying income tax, will decrease. In 2016, there were an estimated 308 people of a pensionable age for every 1,000 people of a working age. By 2037, this is projected to increase to 365 people.
This increase means that there will be fewer people of working age to support a larger population of older people and this will put increased pressure on services, particularly health and social care.
A different approach
The Running Granny wants to highlight this serious situation. She also wants to offer a solution that, by adopting healthier lifestyle choices, taking small steps that we introduce over time, we can all help to improve our own quality of life and reduce the likelihood of developing LTCs.
Prevention of the development of LTCs or slowing their decline, if we already have them, will deliver long term benefits both to individuals and to the community at large.
This is a long term investment in our future health. If we can reduce and reverse the growth in preventable LTCs then, as well as benefiting ourselves, perhaps we can help our NHS to continue to deliver all the services we would like for future generations.
The Kings Fund – Long Term Conditions and Multi Morbidity; Department of Health – Compendium of Long Term Conditions
Office for National Statistics
A river cuts through rock, not because of its power but because of its persistence