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Third of people now have serious health problems by 40s - see list of most common issues

More than a third of adults have multiple health problems by the time they get to their 40s and things are only 'getting worse', worrying research suggests.

A new study found that 34 per cent of people aged 46 to 48 have two or more long-term health conditions.

People from poorer backgrounds were more likely to face health troubles, it was also revealed.

Of the issues, at least one relates to a person's physical health by the time they reach middle age.

High-risk drinking is one of the most damaging, with 26 per cent feeling the effects.

Other problems include chronic back problems, mental ill-health, high blood pressure, diabetes, asthma and diabetes.

The study, published in the journal BMC Public Health, found that those who grew up in less well off families - defined by the father being unskilled - were 43 per cent more likely to have multiple long-term health problems in their late 40s than those who were wealthier. 

a glass cup on a wooden table: drinking beer pint

They were also almost 3.5 times more likely to suffer from mental ill-health and arthritis, research shows - and had around three times the risk of having poor mental health.

Experts also found a link between youngsters having issues in childhood, such as being overweight or internalising problems, and chronic health problems in midlife.

Lead author Dr Dawid Gondek, from University College London, said: "This study provides concerning new evidence about the state of the nation's health in midlife.

"It 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   


Professor George Ploubidis, also from UCL, said: "We found that adults from the most disadvantaged backgrounds, those who had been overweight or obese as children and those who had experienced mental ill-health as teenagers were all at increased risk of poor health later on.

"If these links reflect causal effects, policy and practice targeting these core areas in childhood and adolescence may improve the health of future generations and alleviate potential pressures on the NHS."

a man sitting on a desk: health

The researchers analysed data from 7,951 adults taking part in a British Cohort Study from when they were born.

At age the age of 46 to 48, in 2016-18, they took part in a biomedical survey, where nurses measured their blood pressure and took a blood sample to check for diabetes.

People were also asked about chronic physical health conditions, such as recurrent back problems, asthma, heart problems and arthritis.

Mental health and high-risk drinking were also examined through questionnaires.

The data showed that more than a quarter of people engaged in high-risk drinking, more than one in five -21 per cent - reporting recurrent back issues.

Just under a fifth - 19 per cent - were experiencing mental health problems.

One in six had high blood pressure, more than one in 10 - 12 per cent - were suffering from asthma or bronchitis, one in 13 had arthritis and one in 20 had diabetes in midlife, five per cent.

A previous major study on 1.7 million people in 2007 aged 45 to 64 put the figure for people suffering multiple health problems at 30%.

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Dr Gondek added: "Compared to previous generations, it appears that the health of British adults in midlife is on the decline.

"With earlier studies finding links between poor health in adulthood and lower life satisfaction, lower earnings and early retirement, public health guidance should focus on helping the population improve their health in midlife so they can age better, stay economically active and continue to lead fulfilling lives."

a man standing in front of a window: back health

The full list of most common issues

High-risk drinking

Back issues

Mental health problems

Asthma or bronchitis



Reference:: Mirror:  Jane Kirby & Sam Elliott-Gibbs  

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