‘Workers develop long-term illnesses significantly younger than thought’

A new report recommends more money is invested in health prevention as data shows people develop long-term health problems at an earlier age than previously thought.

Older workers


Significantly more money needs to be invested in health prevention, says a new report which suggests people develop long-term ill health earlier than previously thought.

The report by the All Party Parliamentary Group for Longevity says that, without significant change the government, will not meet its goal “for everyone to have five extra years of healthy, independent life by 2035, and to narrow the gap between the richest and the poorest”.

The report shows that previous estimates that women on average living in good health for 64 years are too optimistic. It says people are getting significant long-term illnesses nearly 10 years earlier.

This is because up to now measurements of healthy life expectancy have been based on asking people if they felt well or unwell.  These showed that men and women in England on average lived in good health for 64 years, and women lived for nearly 20 years in poor health, while men lived for 16 years in poor health.

However, recent data in fact shows that men on average are being diagnosed with their first significant long-term condition at 56 and women at 55 – leading to nearly 10 years longer in poor health for women and seven years for men. As a result, the report says, women may live for 29 years in poor health and men for 23 years, an increase of 50% for women and 42% for men.

Moreover, evidence suggests that men and women in our poorest areas are being diagnosed with a significant long-term condition when they are on average only 49 and 47 years old respectively.

The The Health of the Nation – a strategy for healthier longer lives report calls on the Prime Minister to make improving health a national ambition to mobilise action to allocate finance and establish a pan-government approach and for an increase of 10% in the portion of the NHS budget dedicated to health prevention by 2030 [up from less than 5% to 15%].

Among other recommendations, it calls for a Business Coalition for Healthier Lives to incentivise socially-responsible business practices for better health and it says business, media and the third sector need to help change cultural norms about our health.

While figures published by the Office for National Statistics on 17th February show the continued growth in employment of older people, particularly women due to the raised retirement level, economic inactivity due to long-term ill health now stands at 2.08 million, up from two million a year ago.  The Institute for Employment Studies says: “With nearly two million inactive people stating that they want to work, unemployment at record lows and an increasingly tight labour market, how we support those furthest from work will be an increasing economic and social priority in the year ahead.”

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