UCL News


Stalling improvements in cardiovascular disease rates could cost £54bn

7 July 2022

A slowdown in improvements in cardiovascular diseases, such as heart disease and stroke, in England and Wales could cost £54billion in health and social care costs between 2020 and 2029, finds a new modelling study co-led by UCL researchers.

Cardiovascular disease

In the late part of the 20th century and up to 2010, high-income countries saw dramatic declines in cardiovascular disease (CVD), however, since 2011, falls in CVD rates have stalled, including in England and Wales.

To analyse the impact of this, researchers used the IMPACT Better Ageing Model (IMPACT BAM), a mathematical model, to examine the relationship between CVD on dementia, disability, and economic costs, based on data from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing, which has been linked with NHS Hospital Episode Statistics for England.

Published in PLoS ONE, the first of its kind study anticipated that plateauing rates of CVD could cost £13billion in NHS healthcare costs, £1.5billion in social care costs, £8billion in the value of informal care, and £32billion in the value of lost “quality adjusted life years” (QALYs).

Professor Eric Brunner (UCL Institute of Epidemiology & Health), lead investigator of the study at UCL, said: “Our modelling work using official UK data highlights the increasing pressure, year on year, in the social care system for older people.

“Financial resources and trained personnel are both in short supply. Poorer people and their families are most vulnerable to the growing gap between supply and need, as they are unable to pay for social care.”

Evidence suggests that Covid-19 is a risk factor for new CVD, and existing cardiovascular disease can mean worse outcomes with Covid-19 infection.

This means it is more crucial than ever to refocus on preventing cardiovascular disease and getting back on a positive trajectory where cardiovascular disease rates are falling year on year.

To do this, the study authors recommend interventions including measures to reduce poverty, improving diet through a healthier food system, tobacco control, and increasing exercise to help reduce the incidence of CVD.

In future, the researchers also hope the IMPACT BAM model could be used to look at the effect of specific interventions to prevent cardiovascular disease and dementia.

Corresponding author, Dr Brendan Collins (University of Liverpool), said: “This modelling reinforces that ‘what is good for the heart is good for the brain’ – meaning that if we reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases like heart disease and stroke, we also reduce the future prevalence of dementia, so it is not simply the case that preventing disease now means that health and social care costs are higher in future – a healthier population saves money across the life course.”

The study involved researchers at UCL, University of Liverpool, the Institute of Fiscal Studies, Imperial College London, as well as Universities of Helsinki, Gdansk, Bristol, and Cambridge. It was funded by the British Heart Foundation.



Credit: Rawpixel on iStock

Media contact 

Poppy Danby 

E: p.danby [at] ucl.ac.uk