Aging Population Not Heaviest Burden On Health Care

(File photo courtesy © CanStockPhoto.com/Leaf)

A new study on chronic diseases by researchers at Western University has found that seniors aren’t the only ones to blame for the province’s overcrowded hospitals and waiting rooms.

The study was conducted by researchers at Western University’s Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry and published in the Canadian Journal of Public Health (CJPH). It indicates that the volume of multimorbidity, which is the presence of three or more chronic conditions, is seen in adults as young as 35 years old.

Multimorbidity has been associated with increased physician and specialist appointments, medication use, emergency department use, and hospitalization.

“Too much rhetoric has been narrowly focused on Canada’s aging population,” says Louise Potvin, CJPH editor-in-chief. “It’s distracting from very real and critical issues that compound chronic illness, such as insufficient and unequal access to quality health care, and inadequate disease prevention and health promotion interventions for younger and middle-aged people.”

In 2013, more than 73% of Ontarians over the age of 80 had multimorbidity compared to 50% of those aged 65-79 and nearly 20% of those between 45 and 64. However, the study shows the highest volume of multimorbidity is seen between the ages of 45 and 64, with approximately 754,663 in absolute numbers.

“In focusing primarily on advanced age, governments and policy-makers cannot fully appreciate the causes and solutions to multimorbidity in the middle years — and the potential impact on population health,” says Bridget Ryan, the study’s lead author and an assistant professor at Schulich Medicine & Dentistry. “Our goal with this study is to demonstrate the need for more attention and resources directed to the prevention and management of chronic diseases earlier in life.”

Of the 17 chronic conditions taken into account by this research, the most prevalent were hypertension, mood disorders, arthritis, diabetes, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.