Malnutrition in Adults

Older couple eating a meal in a care home

The Issue

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 2019

This year the BDA is pleased to be lending support to the second UK Malnutrition Awareness Week which is taking place between 14 – 20 October. During the week, as well as working to raise public awareness of malnutrition and help people look out for signs and symptoms, BAPEN is asking health and social care professionals to screen with ‘MUST’, and to record any nutritional care a person is given.

To help with data collection, there is a new and simple system on the BAPEN website (live from 23rd September) for individual professionals and organisations to use. The system allows you to quickly and easily input the screening results of each person in your care and information on the nutritional care they receive. There is a simple registration process, so that the system can then give you a summary of your own local data. The survey will help BAPEN to get the national picture on malnutrition and nutritional care across the UK in 2019.

Don’t forget to follow BAPEN on Twitter @BAPENUK and Facebook @UKBAPEN and share news of your involvement in UK #MAW2019 with BAPEN and key partners the Malnutrition Task Force.

Find out more about the 2019 week here.   

We've also got some resources you can use:

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