Deprivation is robbing people of years of good health from their 30s onwards, driving people out of work and reinforcing poverty as they head towards retirement age.
A huge new study by the Health Foundation shows the impact, as poverty piles pressure on NHS services.
More than 14 million people in England now have more than one health condition: this detailed study of 300,000 people with multiple health conditions reveals that people living in the least deprived fifth of England have an average of two conditions when they are aged 71, while those living in the most deprived fifth reach the same point at 61.
Around 16% of people aged 65-74 in the least deprived group have four or more conditions. For the most deprived group, that figure leaps to 28%.
But living with multiple conditions is by no means restricted to older people – significant gaps in health are already apparent by the time people reach their late 30s.
As other studies have shown, deprivation and having multiple conditions is strongly associated with frailty, with symptoms such as weakness and weight loss. This is blighting the lives of many younger people as well as older people.
The foundation’s study exposes the connections between different conditions, especially physical and mental health. More than a third of people living with a mental health condition also have chronic pain; around one in four people living with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease also have depression or anxiety.
Quite apart from illness itself, endless medical appointments are a good way to stop people holding down a job. People with multiple conditions are prescribed an average of 20 medications, necessitating repeated visits to the GP and forcing people to go through the stress and disruption of multiple outpatient appointments to different specialists on different days. There is no excuse for this in the era of online booking. The NHS is shockingly profligate with patients’ time.
Read more at the Guardian