Analysis from the Health Foundation’s REAL Centre show how the levels of illness are projected to change over the next 20 years because of our growing and ageing population. This page highlights the key findings from our projections work.
Explore how patterns of ill health might change in our interactive charts below.
Living with major illness
By 2040, 9.1 million people – around 1 in 5 of the adult population in England – are projected to be living with major illness.
This means a potential increase of 2.5 million people living with major illness in 2040 compared with 2019. Most of this increase is the result of an ageing population.
As life expectancy increases and the baby-boomer generation reaches old age, more people are living longer with major illness. While living longer is something to celebrate, this will have profound implications for the NHS and other public services.
People are also projected to spend more time living with major illness.
While life expectancy is increasing, the average age at which people are expected to be living with major illness is projected to remain constant at 70 years. This means people are living longer with major illness – an increase from 11.2 years in 2019 to 12.6 years in 2040.
This not only directly impacts on the people living with major illness but also creates additional pressures on all of us to care for and fund a growing population with more health and care needs.
The number of people living with major illness is projected to increase by 37% by 2040 (2.5m from 6.7m to 9.1m*). This is nine times the rate of increase in the working age population, which is projected to grow by 4% (from 35.5m to 37.9m).
What conditions will increase the most?
There will be millions of new cases of several highly prevalent or high-need conditions.
The three most common conditions: anxiety and depression, chronic pain and diabetes are predominantly managed in primary care, reinforcing the need to invest in NHS care delivered in the community alongside care in hospitals.
What does this mean for England's health care system?
These changes demand a bold, new approach that invests in the nation’s health, placing it on a par with increasing economic growth and tackling climate change as a key driver of government policy. It also underlines the need for a long-term plan to reform, modernise and invest in the NHS.