Nineteen of the 20 health conditions studied are projected to increase in prevalence, the report warned.
A new report is warning more than 9 million people in England are projected to be living with a major illness by the year 2040, which amounts to an increase of 2.5 million people compared with 2019.
This number is increasing at nine times the rate at which the working-age population is expected to grow over the same period.
The report from the Health Foundation, a non-profit that works to improve healthcare in the UK, also warned 80 per cent of the projected increase in major illness will affect people over the age of 70, as the population ages.
The analysis is part of a four-year project led by the foundation’s REAL Centre, which is working in partnership with the University of Liverpool, to focus on levels of ill health in the population of England up to 2040.
The report states that 19 out of the 20 health conditions studied are projected to increase in prevalence, with a rise of more than 30 per cent in the number of people with conditions such as cancer, diabetes, and kidney disease.
In 2019, one in six adults in England were living with a major disease. This is set to increase to almost one in five by 2040 - which will put a major burden on the NHS.
“Over the next two decades, the growth in major illness will place additional demand on all parts of the NHS, particularly primary care, where services are already under extreme pressure,” said Anita Charlesworth, Director of the REAL Centre.
“But with one in five people projected to be living with major illness in less than two decades’ time, the impact will extend well beyond the health service and has significant implications for other public services, the labour market and the public finances.”
She added that these pressures aren’t only an issue for the NHS in England.
“Countries across the globe face the same pressures. How well prepared we are to meet the challenge is what will set us apart.”
The NHS in the UK is already under significant pressure in terms of demand, budget, and staffing.
Focus on prevention and early intervention
The report states a lot of the projected growth in illness relates to conditions such as anxiety and depression, chronic pain, and diabetes.
These conditions are mainly managed outside of hospitals and in primary care centres or the community. The authors say therefore this reinforces the need for investment in these services outside of hospital settings, as well as a need to focus on prevention and early intervention.
While 80 per cent of the projected increase in major illnesses is expected to be among people aged over 70, 20 per cent will be among people aged 20-69.
“The rise in people living with major illness will not occur overnight,” said Toby Watt, a lead economist at the REAL Centre. “Managing these pressures is achievable with careful planning, investment and changes in how care is delivered.”
He added that the findings in the report are projections, not forecasts, “which are designed to support policymakers in preparing for the future”.
While it projects improvements in some of the main causes of poor health, such as a reduction in the number of people smoking, these will be offset by things like rising obesity rates.