The sunny fact that Americans are living longer, more productive lives has a dark side: More of us than ever live with chronic illnesses that are not only a drag on sufferers' time and energy, but on the nation's pocketbook. The Institute of Medicine on Tuesday put a dollar figure on the cost of caring for chronic illness in the United States--$1.5 trillion yearly, fully three-fourths of annual healthcare spending.
A panel of experts called on policymakers to do more to prevent and track the big nine chronic diseases that most drain the nation's wallet. And they called for more efforts to streamline the care of the patients who live with those conditions, and to improve their quality of life.
Among the chronic health conditions on the American medical landscape, nine dominate, the Institute of Medicine report issued Tuesday says. They are (followed, where estimated, by the numbers of Americans afflicted at last count):
--arthritis (50 million adults)
--cancer survivorship (12 million)
--chronic pain (116 million adults)
--dementia (5.4 million)
--depression (20.3 million)
--Type 2 diabetes (25.6 million adults)
--schizophrenia (2 million)
--hearing and vision loss (34 million and 25 million adults)
Most of these chronic conditions are related to at least one of two factors clearly on the rise among Americans: advanced age and obesity. So the prevalence of virtually all of these "big nine" health conditions is also expected to rise, in some cases steeply, in the years ahead.