Malnutrition in Adults
It is still widely believed that malnutrition is a problem restricted to the developing world. Quite simply, this is not true. Today, in the UK, millions of friends, relatives, neighbours, children 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 for 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 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.
UK Malnutrition Awareness Week
The UK's first Malnutrition Awareness week ran from October 1st-7th 2018, run by BAPEN in partnership with the Malnutrition Task Force and supported by the BDA. The week aimed to shine a spotlight on the hidden problem of malnutrition in the elderly, and raise awareness of the signs and symptoms so that elderly people at risk can be identified and managed to prevent and minimise harm.
Although the week is over, the objectives of the campaign are as relevant as ever! You can still make use of the resources below to raise awareness of malnutrition, and highlight the need for action from government and health services.
BAPEN resources include:
- MAW Call to Action
- Cards for use on Social Media
- Selfie Pledge Card- print this off and take a photo of you and your team holding it, with how you pledge to raise awareness of malnutrition written on it!
- MAW Logo
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:
- Read our Malnutrition Key Fact Sheet
- Read our Policy Statement on "The Management of Malnourished Adults in All Community and All Health and Care Settings"
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 the APPG on Hunger's report on Malnutrition and Hidden Hunger in the Elderly Population, published in January 2018 (and read our submission to that consultation here).
- Read our response to the Senedd Committee on care for the elderly, highlighting the issue of malnutrition.
- Read our submission to the APPG on Ageing and Older People on malnutrition and the right to food.
- 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.
- Mind the Hunger Gap Poster.
- Case Studies- real-life examples of what the dietetic profession has done to help combat malnutrition within the ‘invisible population’.
- Find key stats on malnutrition on the Malnutrition Task Force website
- Read more about the causes and solutions to malnutrition on the BAPEN website