The number of people aged over 65 needing social care could reach 2.8 million by 2025 in England and Wales, according to scientific research published in The Lancet yesterday
This would signify a 25% increase since 2015, and is owing to a rise in the number of people living into old age, with dementia-related illnesses expected to represent the biggest growing cause of disability.
The findings come after social care was put under the spotlight when PM Theresa May backtracked on her ‘dementia tax’ plans to charge anyone with more than £100,000 of assets for care earlier this week.
Lead author of the research, Dr Maria Guzman-Castillo, said: "The societal, economic, and public health implications of our predictions are substantial."
"Spending on long-term care will need to increase considerably by 2025, which has serious implications for a cash-strapped and overburdened NHS and an under-resourced social care system.
"More cost-effective health and social care provision will be needed, such as increased availability of institutional care, and better financial support - such as tax allowances or cash benefits."
The research, conducted by the University of Liverpool and University College London, shows that the number of people aged over 65 will have increased from 10.4 million people in 2015 to 12.4 million by 2025.
For those aged 65 in 2025, life expectancy is projected to increase by 1.7 years to 86.8 years, but a quarter of later life is likely to be spent with disability, with dementia rates expected to increase by 49% in over-65s throughout the decade.
The second-largest cause of disabilities are expected to be other diseases such as mental health problems, diabetes, musculoskeletal disorders, and other chronic diseases, which are forecast to increase 37% by 2025.
In addition to increased investment in health and social care, the research encourages the implementation of effective disease prevention measures to counter poor diet, smoking, and high alcohol consumption.
"The rising burden of disability and population ageing emphasises the urgent need for policy development that includes effective prevention interventions," Guzman-Castillo added.
"Sufficient and swift investment in these policies could lead to substantial cost-savings and help the ageing population live more healthily in the future."