Chronic diseases and health promotion

Overview - Preventing chronic diseases: a vital investment

Misunderstanding #7

MISUNDERSTANDING #7: chronic diseases mainly
affect old people

Chronic diseases are often viewed as primarily affecting old people. We now know that almost half of chronic disease deaths occur prematurely, in people under 70 years of age. One quarter of all chronic disease deaths occur in people under 60 years of age. In low and middle income countries, middle-aged adults are especially vulnerable to chronic disease. People in these countries tend to develop disease at younger ages, suffer longer – often with preventable complications – and die sooner than those in high income countries.

Childhood overweight and obesity in children is a rising global problem. About 22 million children aged under five years are overweight. In the United Kingdom, the prevalence of overweight in children aged two to 10 years rose from 23% to 28% between 1995 and 2003. In urban areas of China, overweight and obesity among children aged two to six years increased substantially from 1989 to 1997. Reports of type 2 diabetes in children and adolescents – previously unheard of – have begun to mount worldwide.

Projected chronic disease death rates for selected countries, aged 30-69 years, 2005