It is still widely believed that malnutrition is a problem restricted to the developing world. Sadly, this is not true. Today, in the UK, millions of friends, relatives, neighbours and colleagues are at risk of the effects of malnutrition. Malnutrition and mortality are usually closely linked. Malnutrition lengthens hospital stays, reduces quality of life and increases the risk of developing other diseases.The cost of malnutrition in England alone was estimated to be £19.6 billion per year in 2011/12, or more than 15% of the total public expenditure on health and social care.
The reasons why people become malnourished are varied - it may be because they cannot afford food, can't properly prepare it due to physical disabilities, have lost their appetite or have another healthcare condition that makes eating and drinking more difficult. Older people aged over 65 are more likely than any other age group to suffer from malnutrition. Sadly, it reduced appetitite and weight loss have become regarded by some as a normal sign of getting older - but this isn't true.
COVID-19 will be making many of these issues worse. That's why we joined the UK Malnutrition Awareness and Prevention Network (MAPN) to call on government to take action to avoid a "perfect storm for malnutrition".
UK Malnutrition Awareness Week
The BDA is delighted to support the UK Malnutrition Awareness Week, most recently from 14 – 20 October 2019. During the week, as well as working to raise public awareness of malnutrition and help people look out for signs and symptoms, the BDA supports our allies at BAPEN to ask health and social care professionals to screen with ‘MUST’, and to record any nutritional care a person is given.
We've also got some resources you can use:
- Download the BDA Older People Specialist Group Guiding food principles document
- Read our Guide to good nutrition in older age, produced with Friends of the Elderly for Nutrition and Hydration Week 2017/18
- Share the "Losing Weight is Not Normal" advice from our Older People Specialist Group
- Five tips to boost good nutrition and hydration in older age
- Share your own case studies, or if you like, some of these:
What else can dietitians do?
You can also use these materials, facts and figures, plus your own personal experiences of tackling malnutrition, to highlight the scale of the problem locally at any time. Maybe write to your MP, or take an opportunity to highlight it in an elevator pitch next time you see your trust chief executive!
Key Facts and Figures
- More than 3 million people in the UK are at risk of malnutrition with the vast majority, about 93%, living in the community setting, 5% in residential care and 2% in hospital.
- Over one million older people in the United Kingdom living in their own homes are suffering from malnutrition.
- Greater use of healthcare and costs associated with malnutrition mean:
- 65% more GP visits;
- 82% more hospital admissions;
- 30% longer hospital stays.
Further Information and Resources
- Read BAPENs "Managing Malnutrition to improve lives and save money" report.
- Read the latest healthy economics research from the Dutch Malnutrition Steering Group, including the return on investment of dietetic interventions to treat malnutrition.
- Read the APPG on Hunger's report on Malnutrition and Hidden Hunger in the Elderly Population, published in January 2018.
- Read BSNA's new report (2018) Forgotten not Fixed: A Blueprint to Tackle the Increasing Burden of Malnutrition in England - which highlights the significant underreporting of malnutrition in the UK.
- BDA Policy Statement on Malnutrition.
- Find key stats on malnutrition on the Malnutrition Task Force website
- Read more about the causes and solutions to malnutrition on the BAPEN website