New chartbook illustrates burden of chronic illnesses

A new publication illustrates the burden that chronic illnesses impose on American society, demonstrating through charts and graphics how 60 percent of American adults suffer from at least one chronic health condition and 42 percent have more than one.

The chartbook updates previous compendiums with more recent information about the prevalence of multiple chronic conditions, as well as the associated health care utilization and spending.

The data confirms that the prevalence of multiple chronic conditions is highest among older adults. Women are more likely than men to have multiple chronic conditions, as many women live longer than men do.

A chronic condition is a physical or mental health condition that lasts more than one year and causes functional restrictions or requires ongoing monitoring or treatment.

When a patient has more than one chronic condition -- such as diabetes, high blood pressure and depression -- treatment can be difficult to manage, researchers say. Treatment strategies or drug regimens may be similar, but one chronic condition often is managed better than the others.

"We hope this updated chartbook helps both health professionals and the public better understand that chronic disease is a burden not only for patients, but also for the health care system overall," said Christine Buttorff, lead author of the study and an associate policy researcher at RAND, a nonprofit research organization.

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