More than one in three middle-aged British adults are suffering from at least two chronic health conditions, including recurrent back problems, poor mental health, high blood pressure, diabetes and high-risk drinking.
The study of “generation X” adults born in 1970 found that those who grew up in poorer families were 43% more likely to have multiple long-term health conditions than their peers from wealthier households. Adults from poorer backgrounds had almost three and half times higher risk of suffering from mental ill-health and arthritis, and about three times the risk of having poor mental health and high blood pressure in their late 40s.
Those who had experienced physical and mental health problems as children, including lower birth weight, higher body mass index, lower cognitive ability at age 10 and worse emotional and behavioural issues at age 16 were also more likely to suffer from multiple chronic health problems.
Dawid Gondek, the UCL researcher who authored the paper, said: “This study ... shows that a substantial proportion of the population are already suffering from multiple long-term physical and mental health problems in their late 40s, and also points to stark health inequalities, which appear to begin early in childhood.” He added, “Compared to previous generations, it appears that the health of British adults in midlife is on the decline.”