The chronic disease explosion: artificial bang or empirical whimper?

BMJ 2016; 352 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.i1312 (Published 15 March 2016) Cite this as: BMJ 2016;352:i1312

This BMJ article question whether the increase in chronic diseases truly reflects poorer health.

Key messages

  • The rapidly increasing prevalence of diagnosed chronic disease could be due to changes in underlying health; changes in data capture; or changes in healthcare practice

  • Increasing prevalence seems inconsistent with trends in self reported health

  • Such large changes in underlying health are unlikely to have occurred within a decade

  • We must be careful not to conflate diagnosis with illness or morbidity

  • If changes in healthcare practice are driving the increase, we must be sure they improve outcomes for patients