Chronic Disease, a Public Health Issue for Older Adults

Heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes, and respiratory diseases are prevalent among older adults and are leading causes of illness, disability, and death.

Helpful Highlights

  • Chronic diseases represent a significant public health issue for older adults due to several reasons.

  • Given these factors, addressing chronic diseases among older adults is a top public health priority.

  • Prevention efforts, early detection, disease management, and promotion of healthy behaviors are essential strategies for reducing burden and improving overall health outcomes.

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Chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and respiratory diseases are highly prevalent among older adults. As people age, they are more likely to develop one or more chronic conditions, and many older adults live with multiple chronic diseases simultaneously.

Impact on quality of life

Chronic diseases can significantly impact your loved one's quality of life by causing symptoms such as pain, fatigue, mobility limitations, and cognitive impairment. These conditions can also lead to disability, decreased independence, and reduced ability to engage in activities of daily living.

Increased healthcare costs

Managing chronic diseases among older adults accounts for a substantial portion of healthcare spending in the United States. The costs associated with hospitalizations, medications, physician visits, and other healthcare services for chronic conditions can be considerable, both for your loved one (and you) and the healthcare system.

Functional decline and disability

Chronic diseases can contribute to functional decline and disability in your loved one, affecting their ability to perform essential tasks such as bathing, dressing, and cooking. Functional limitations can lead to a loss of independence, increased reliance on you, and reduced overall quality of life.


Chronic diseases are the leading cause of death among older adults in the United States. Conditions such as heart disease, cancer, and stroke account for a significant proportion of deaths in this population.

Preventable risk factors

Many of the risk factors for chronic diseases, such as unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, tobacco use, and excessive alcohol consumption, are modifiable (can be changed) through public and private health interventions. Addressing these risk factors can help prevent or delay the onset of chronic diseases and improve the health outcomes of your loved one.

No content in this app, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.

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Elderly man is smiling at his relative caregiver