Big Pharma’s favorite customers: 60% of American adults have at least one chronic condition and 40% have more than one
By Olivia Cook // Jun 06, 2023

Six in 10 adults in the U.S. have at least one chronic disease, a condition that is ongoing and has no mainstream cure. Meanwhile, four in ten adults have two or more such conditions.


With the number of people in the U.S. aged 50 years and older expected to increase by 61.11 percent from 137.25 million in 2020 to 221.13 million in 2050, considerably more Americans will need medical help due to chronic diseases.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also reported that more than 40 percent of school-aged children and adolescents have at least one chronic health condition, such as asthma, behavioral or learning problems, obesity and other physical conditions. Their healthcare needs can be complex and continuous and include both daily management and addressing potential emergencies. (Related: Childhood obesity is gateway to many other chronic diseases.)

Higher rates of illness mean higher healthcare costs

Chronic diseases are the leading drivers of the nation's $4.1 trillion annual healthcare costs.

People with chronic conditions, particularly those with multiple chronic conditions, are the heaviest users of healthcare services, which include home healthcare, hospitalizations, office visits and prescription drugs.

Individuals with multiple chronic conditions account for two-thirds of all prescriptions filled. The more chronic conditions a person has, the more he or she needs and uses these services. Consequently, the vast majority of healthcare dollars spent in the U.S. are spent on people with chronic conditions.

In 2001, the care given to people with chronic conditions accounted for 83 percent of healthcare spending, and that number will undoubtedly increase as society ages and the number of people with chronic conditions grows.

The largest number of people with chronic conditions are of working age and are privately insured – 78 million people with chronic conditions have private insurance coverage and their care accounts for about 74 percent of private insurance spending. Almost all Medicare dollars and about 83 percent of Medicaid resources are spent on people with chronic conditions.

Healthcare expenditures and use also increase considerably when people have multiple chronic health conditions. In general, healthcare spending for a person with one chronic condition is two and a half times greater than spending for someone without any chronic condition, while spending is almost 15 times greater for someone with five or more chronic conditions. Ninety-six percent of Medicare spending is on behalf of people with multiple chronic conditions.

Many chronic diseases are avoidable

Many chronic diseases are preventable through lifestyle choices or early detection and management of risk factors. Also, many can be managed with an improved diet and regular exercise.

Here are a few chronic conditions that could be avoided:


Asthma, a disease that affects an estimated 6.2 million children under 18 years of age, can be managed to reduce activity limitations and the need for emergency or hospital care.

Evidence indicates that asthma can be controlled through a multi-faceted approach, including the identification and reduction of exposure to allergens in the home and environment, self-management education and natural remedies or therapy.

With appropriate management, quality of life improves, including a decrease in limitations on daily activities, better lung function, fewer trips to the emergency department and less missed work or school time.


Recent studies show that moderate weight loss and exercise can help prevent diabetes among high-risk individuals. Once diagnosed, diabetes can be effectively managed to reduce complications. Control of blood sugar levels reduces the risk of eye, kidney and nerve-related disease by 40 percent, while control of blood pressure can reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke by 33 to 50 percent.

Heart disease

Early detection and management of risk factors are critical for preventing diseases from progressing.

For example, managing cholesterol levels and hypertension significantly lowers the rate of heart attack and stroke. If population-wide cholesterol levels could be reduced by 10 percent, the incidence of coronary artery disease could drop by an estimated 30 percent.


Obesity is strongly associated with numerous medical conditions, including arthritis, breast, colon and endometrial cancers, heart disease, hypertension, stroke and Type 2 diabetes.

An obese individual is more than twice as likely to suffer from heart disease or high blood pressure (hypertension) as a person of normal weight. Annual healthcare costs are 35 percent higher for obese individuals relative to normal-weight individuals. Each year, approximately 300,000 deaths are attributed to obesity.

The CDC estimates that eliminating three risk factors – poor diet, inactivity and smoking – would prevent 80 percent of heart disease and stroke, 80 percent of Type 2 diabetes and 40 percent of cancer.

Preventing chronic conditions

Some chronic conditions are not preventable because they are genetic or their cause is unknown, such as cystic fibrosis, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and Type 1 diabetes. Other chronic conditions can sometimes develop due to risk factors that people can control, such as kidney disease, some lung disorders, stroke and Type 2 diabetes.

Here are some things you can do to reduce your risk of developing preventable chronic conditions:

Eat healthy. Eating healthy helps prevent, delay and manage heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and other chronic diseases. A balanced diet includes a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and low-fat dairy products and limits added sugars, saturated fats and sodium. Choose the right foods your body needs, limit what you don’t need and know how much to have.

Engage in regular physical activity. Regular physical activity can help you prevent, delay or manage chronic diseases. Aim for moderate-intensity physical activity (like brisk walking or gardening) for at least 150 minutes a week, with muscle-strengthening activities at least two days a week.

Get enough good-quality sleep. Insufficient sleep has been linked to the development and poor management of depression, diabetes, heart disease and obesity, among other chronic conditions. Healthy adults need at least seven hours of sleep per night. Babies, young children, and teens need even more sleep to enable their growth and development.

Knowing the general recommendations for how much sleep you need is a first step. Next, reflect on your individual needs based on factors like your activity level and overall health. Finally, follow healthy sleep tips so that you can actually get the recommended full night’s sleep.

Get screened. To prevent chronic diseases or catch them early, visit your healthcare provider regularly for preventive services.

Quit smoking. Quitting smoking (or never starting) lowers the risk of serious health problems, such as cancer, heart disease, lung disorders and Type 2 diabetes, as well as premature death – even for longtime smokers.

Reduce your alcohol intake. Over time, excessive drinking can lead to heart disease, high blood pressure, liver disease, stroke and various cancers. By not drinking too much, you can reduce these health risks.

Take care of your teeth. Oral diseases – which can range from cavities and gum disease to oral cancer – cause pain and disability for millions of Americans. To help prevent these problems, practice oral hygiene and visit your dentist at least once a year – even if you are wearing dentures.

For more articles like this, visit

Watch the following video to learn about the shocking reality of chronic conditions in the United States.

This video is from the Daily Videos channel on

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Sources include: 1 2

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