People in UK living longer lives with more ill health in later years

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People are living longer but they are seeing more illness and disability in their older years, research published in the Lancet has found.

In the UK, men gained 23 years of life expectancy between 1990 and 2013, of which 4.7 years were considered to be "healthy life expectancy".

Women in the UK gained 4.4 years, of which 3.3 were considered to be healthy.

The fastest growing cause of health loss for men was diabetes, which increased at a rate of 65%, while Alzheimer's disease increased at a rate of 54%.

Diseases of the sense organs, such as vision and hearing loss increased at a rate of 24% for UK men.

For women, the largest increases were in Alzheimer's which increased at a rate of 22% while low back and neck pain increased at a rate of 17%.

Lung cancer in women increased at a rate of 13%, the study Global, regional, and national disability‐adjusted life years (DALYs) for 306 diseases and injuries and healthy life expectancy (HALE) for 188 countries, 1990‐2013: quantifying the epidemiological transition found.

In the UK the main causes of health loss included ischemic heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer, Alzheimer's disease and depressive disorders, the report found

The study analysed over 300 conditions affecting people in 188 countries between 1990 and 2013 , led by the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, in the US, and was co-authored by Dr Ivy Shiue a senior researcher in the Department of Healthcare at Northumbria University.

Dr Shiue said: "Healthy life expectancy takes into account not just mortality, but the impact of non-fatal conditions and summarises the years lived with disability and the years lost due to premature mortality.

"The increase in healthy life expectancy has not been as dramatic as the growth of total life expectancy, and as a result, people are living more years with illness and disability.

"The fact that people in the UK are living longer is encouraging, but we also want to live healthier.

"Conditions that disproportionately affect the older population - like Alzheimer's disease - are increasingly impacting on Britain's overall health. This means an increased nationwide burden on caregiving as well."

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