In Brief

Sharp rise in ‘multimorbidity’ blamed on obesity and lack of exercise

GPs struggling to cope with number of patients suffering multiple health problems fuelled by unhealthy lifestyles

The increasingly unhealthy lifestyles of Britons are leaving GPs struggling to deal with a “tidal wave” of patients with multiple health problems, experts have warned.

One in three people over the age of 50 now have two or more chronic health conditions, known as multimorbidity - twice as many as did just ten years ago, according to a new report from the Academy of Medical Sciences. Meanwhile, an increasing number of young people are being diagnosed with diseases typically associated with older adults, including type two diabetes and heart disease.

The reports says that the NHS is struggling to cope with the flood of patients with multiple illnesses, for whom the government-mandated ten-minute slot for GP appointments is not long enough.

Younger people diagnosed Millennials are “set to be the fattest generation on record”, warns The Daily Telegraph, which notes that obesity is linked to 90% of type two diabetes cases. "GPs are struggling to cope with a 'tidal wave' of ever younger patients with multiple health problems," says the newspaper.

Professor Melanie Davies, from the University of Leicester, said: “There are now over 500 children with type two diabetes. A child or adolescent with type two diabetes was almost unheard of just 20 years ago. Within a generation it has changed really quickly.”

The rate at which diabetes is being diagnosed among young people is “scary”, Davies added.

Experts also blame unhealthy diets and lifestyles for the increase in "multimorbidity" among older people, although increased life expectancies is also a factor.

Doctors struggling Professor Stephen MacMahon, who chaired the panel that wrote the report, says GPs need more time to properly help patients suffering from several conditions. “It’s extremely difficult to manage a patient with half a dozen diseases in ten minutes. What happens is multiple consultations, each focusing on the individual diseases,” he said.

The problem is not confined to the UK, notes the Financial Times. MacMahon says the new report “should be the tipping point of recognising that multimorbidity is an enormous threat to global health”. There are no accurate figures for the number of people suffering more than one illness, but the report estimates that it could be as many as a billion worldwide.

The report also suggests that living with multiple conditions, and living an unhealthy lifestyle, could be related to depression, though more research into the link is needed. One study has shown that people with depression are 37% more likely to develop type two diabetes than those without.

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