Byline: By Madeleine Brindley Western Mail
The number of people suffering from a long-term chronic illness is set to explode in Wales within a decade. Official figures suggest that there will be a 12% increase in the number of adults with a life-limiting disease by 2014.
Current figures show that a third of Welsh adults - at least 800,000 people - have a long-term illness, such as heart disease, diabetes or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
The chronic-illness prediction comes just a day after the Western Mail revealed that the gap between the rich and poor in Wales was increasing, sending people in deprived areas to an early grave.
The expected increase could have a huge impact on the NHS in Wales, which is already struggling to cope with current patient demand.
Wales currently has the highest level of people suffering from chronic illnesses in the UK.
It is thought that this is related to the ageing population - two-thirds of the over-65s have reported having a long-term illness and a third have multiple chronic conditions - as well as Wales' industrial past.
Deprivation and poor lifestyles are also linked to levels of chronic illness - our maps show correlations between obesity and heart disease, smoking and respiratory illnesses.
Dr Kevin Sullivan, policy and public affairs manager for the Welsh NHS Confederation, said, 'Chronic conditions have rightly been called the 21st-century healthcare challenge.
'In Wales we have one of the highest levels in the UK. This is because they are closely linked with age - we have the third highest percentage of over-65s in Europe - combined with the legacy of our industrial past.
'People with chronic conditions are far and away the largest group of NHS patients. And they make up the majority of the NHS workload.
'For instance, 27% of all GP appointments in Wales are for respiratory illness alone. And it has been estimated that chronic conditions as a whole account for up to 60% of hospital bed days.
'This is why tackling chronic conditions has to be at the heart of health policy in Wales.'
It is feared that obesity could be fuelling the rise in chronic illnesses in Wales as much as age. It is estimated that at least half the adult population is now obese or overweight, putting them at greater risk of a range of chronic illnesses, including heart disease, arthritis, diabetes, kidney failure and cancer. …