What is Chronic disease?

Chronic diseases, or non-communicable diseases (NCDs), are broadly defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as diseases of long duration and generally slow progression and are the result of a combination of genetic, physiological, environmental and behaviors factors. [1]

Prevalence in the EU and China:

It has been estimated that chronic diseases affect one-third of the European population over the age of 15.[2] Unfortunately in China, chronic disease is also very commonplace with over 180 million elderly citizens suffering from chronic diseases, of whom 75 percent have more than one, according to the National Health Commission. [3] The top five causes of premature death in China are all chronic diseases; stroke, ischemic heart disease, lung disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and liver cancer.[4] Chronic diseases account for a staggering 80% of deaths in the European Region.[5]

The rise in Chronic diseases:

Chronic diseases are becoming an increasing problem for society nowadays as the aging population increases and people’s lifestyles are becoming more unhealthier. Chronic diseases are largely preventable diseases, nevertheless, due people adopting more sedentary lifestyles obesity rates are rising causing an increase in diseases such as diabetes.[6] The burden of chronic diseases is rapidly increasing worldwide. In 2001, chronic diseases contributed to approximately 46% of the global burden of disease, however the proportion of the burden of chronic disease is expected to increase to 57% by 2020.[7]

In fact, chronic diseases pose a bigger risk to public health than infectious diseases, according to a study published in June 2019 in The Lancet (a weekly peer-reviewed medical journal). The study revealed that chronic diseases have surpassed infectious diseases as the leading causes of early deaths in China.[8] Dr. Zhou Maigeng, a lead author in the study stated that “going forward, the burden of chronic health problems, especially among the elderly, will far exceed infectious diseases.”[9]



[1] Chiara Scaratti et al, Mapping European Welfare Models: State of the Art of Strategies for Professional Integration and Reintegration of Persons with Chronic Diseases, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5923823/ (Consulted on 01/10/2019)

[2] European Public Health Alliance, Putting an end to the chronic disease epidemic in Europe and beyond – what are we waiting for?, https://epha.org/putting-an-end-to-the-chronic-disease-epidemic-in-europe-and-beyond-what-are-we-waiting-for/ (Consulted on 01/10/2019)

[3] Xinhuanet, Over 180 million elderly people have chronic diseases in China, http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2019-07/30/c_138269693.htm (Consulted on 01/10/2019)

[4] Lee Miller and Jeremy C.F. Lin, Bloomberg, China’s Health Has Reached a Tipping Point, https://www.bloomberg.com/graphics/2019-china-chronic-conditions/ (Consulted on 01/10/2019)

[5] The WHO, Leading causes of death in Europe: fact sheet, http://www.euro.who.int/__data/assets/pdf_file/0004/185215/Leading-causes-of-death-in-Europe-Fact-Sheet.pdf (Consulted on 01/10/2019)

[6] PwC, Chronic diseases and conditions are on the rise, https://www.pwc.com/gx/en/industries/healthcare/emerging-trends-pwc-healthcare/chronic-diseases.html (Consulted on 01/10/2019)

[7] The WHO, The global burden of chronic, https://www.who.int/nutrition/topics/2_background/en/ (Consulted on 01/10/2019)

[8] KKF, Chronic Illnesses Surpass Lung Infections, Neonatal Disorders As Leading Causes Of Death In China, Study Shows, https://www.kff.org/news-summary/chronic-illnesses-surpass-lung-infections-neonatal-disorders-as-leading-causes-of-death-in-china-study-shows/ (Consulted on 01/10/2019)

[9] Asian Scientist, China Faces The Challenge Of Chronic Disease, https://www.asianscientist.com/2019/07/health/china-chronic-diseases-death/ (Consulted on 01/10/2019)