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Most American adults have at least one chronic medical condition

About six of every 10 people in the United States age 18 and older have at least one chronic medical condition, according to data from the Agency for Healthcare Research ands Quality (AHRQ). A chronic condition is one that can be expected to last at least one year and result in limitations or the need for ongoing medical care. For example, in 2005 about 22 million Americans received medical care for osteoarthritis and related conditions, 49 million for asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, 17 million for diabetes, 45 million for high blood pressure, and 19 million for heart disease.

After analyzing chronic conditions as a whole in 2005, the data indicate that:

  • Nearly 4 in 10 Americans between 18 and 34 years of age had at least 1 chronic condition, as did 9 of every 10 aged 65 and older.
  • About 77 percent of Americans aged 65 and older had two or more chronic conditions. Only 14 percent of those 18 to 34 had two or more conditions.
  • Nine of every 10 dollars spent for medical care (excluding expenses for dental care and medical equipment and supplies) on adults in the United States was spent to treat persons with chronic conditions.

These findings are taken from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS), a detailed source of information on the health services used by Americans, the frequency with which they are used, the cost of those services, and how they are paid.

For more information, go to MEPS Statistical Brief #203, Health Care Expenses for Adults with Chronic Conditions, 2005, at www.meps.ahrq.gov.

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