Long Term Conditions

Long term conditions are health conditions that last a year or longer, impact on a person’s life, and may require ongoing care and support.

The definition does not relate to any one condition, care-group or age category. Around two million people, 40 per cent of the Scottish population, have at least one long term condition, and one in four adults over 16 report some form of long term illness, health problem or disability.

Long term conditions become more prevalent with age. According to Audit Scotland, the number of people aged 75 and over will rise by 60 per cent between 2004 and 2031. By the age of 65, nearly two-thirds of people will have developed a long term condition. 

Older people are also more likely to have more than one long term condition: 27 per cent of people aged 75-84 have two or more. There is a predicted rise of 38 per cent in the number of people  who will be over 85 in the population by 2016, and a 144 per cent rise in the over 85s by 2031.

The human costs and the economic burden for health and social care are profound. 60 per cent of all deaths are attributable to long term conditions and they account for 80 per cent of all GP consultations. 

Long term conditions

People with long term conditions are twice as likely to be admitted to hospital, will stay in hospital disproportionately longer, and account for over 60 per cent of hospital bed days used.  Most people who need long term residential care have complex needs from multiple long term conditions.

People living with long term conditions are also more likely to experience psychological problems. Prolonged stress alters immunity, making illness more likely and recovery more difficult, especially for those who are already unwell.

There are clear links between long term conditions, deprivation, lifestyle factors and the wider determinants of health. People living with a long term condition are likely to be more disadvantaged across a range of social indicators, including employment, educational opportunities, home ownership and income. 

Someone living in a disadvantaged area is more than twice as likely to have a long term condition as someone living in an affluent area, and is more likely to be admitted to hospital because of their condition.