Has working-age morbidity been declining? Changes over time in survey measures of general health, chronic diseases, symptoms and biomarkers in England 1994-2014

Ben Baumberg Geiger*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Objectives As life expectancy has increased in high-income countries, there has been a global debate about whether additional years of life are free from ill-health/disability. However, little attention has been given to changes over time in morbidity in the working-age population, particularly outside the USA, despite its importance for health monitoring and social policy. This study therefore asks: what are the changes over time in working-age morbidity in England over two decades? Design, setting and participants We use a high-quality annual cross-sectional survey, the Health Survey for England (HSE) 1994-2014. HSE uses a random sample of the English household population, with a combined sample size of over 140 000 people. We produce a newly harmonised version of HSE that maximises comparability over time, including new non-response weights. While HSE is used for monitoring population health, it has hitherto not used for investigating morbidity as a whole. Outcome measures We analyse all 39 measures that are fully comparable over time - including chronic disease diagnoses, symptomatology and a number of biomarkers - adjusting for gender and age. Results We find a mixed picture: we see improving cardiovascular and respiratory health, but deteriorations in obesity, diabetes, some biomarkers and feelings of extreme anxiety/depression, alongside stability in moderate mental ill-health and musculoskeletal-related health. In several domains we also see stable or rising chronic disease diagnoses even where symptomatology has declined. While data limitations make it challenging to combine these measures into a single morbidity index, there is little systematic trend for declining morbidity to be seen in the measures that predict self-reported health most strongly. Conclusions Despite considerable falls in working-age mortality - and the assumptions of many policy-makers that morbidity will follow mortality - there is no systematic improvement in overall working-age morbidity in England from 1994 to 2014.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere032378
JournalBMJ Open
Volume10
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 15 Mar 2020

Keywords

  • biomarkers
  • cross-sectional studies
  • England
  • morbidity
  • population health
  • trends

Fingerprint

Dive into the research topics of 'Has working-age morbidity been declining? Changes over time in survey measures of general health, chronic diseases, symptoms and biomarkers in England 1994-2014'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this