Preventing malnutrition in later life

Malnutrition Factsheet 

We regularly review the below statistics and try to keep them as up to date as possible. 

Definition

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) defines a person as being malnourished if they have:

  • a body mass index (BMI) of less than 18.5 kg/m2
  • unintentional weight loss greater than 10% within the past 3–6 months
  • a BMI of less than 20 kg/m2 and unintentional weight loss greater than 5% within the past 3–6 months
“Nutrition Support for Adults,” Section 1.3, NICE guidelines, Feb 2006, https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg32/chapter/guidance

Malnutrition in Later Life

  • Estimates suggest 1.3 million people over 65 suffer from malnutrition, and the vast majority (93%) live in the community
“Introduction to Malnutrition,” BAPEN, accessed Nov 2014, http://www.bapen.org.uk/about-malnutrition/introduction-to-malnutrition?showall=&start=4

Hospitals

  • One third (32%) of people aged 65 years or over are at risk of malnutrition on admission to hospital
“Nutrition screening surveys in hospitals in the UK, 2007-2011,” BAPEN, accessed April 2015, http://www.bapen.org.uk/pdfs/nsw/bapen-nsw-uk.pdf, p.41
  • Of patients in hospital who said they needed help to eat their meals, 17% said that they did not get enough help from staff and 19% only ‘sometimes’ got enough help
“National findings from the 2014 Inpatients survey,” CQC, http://www.cqc.org.uk/sites/default/files/201500519%20NHS%20Inpatient%20Survey%202014%20National%20summary%20and%20results%20tables%20FINAL.pdf, p.4
  • In hospital, screening in winter in 2010 found that the risk of malnutrition was 28% in patients under 60 years old, 32% in those aged 60-79 years and 44% in those 80 years and over
“Nutrition Screening Survey in the UK and Republic of Ireland in 2010,” Hospital Survey UK, BAPEN, accessed Nov 2014 http://www.bapen.org.uk/pdfs/nsw/nsw10/nsw10-report.pdf, p. 18
  • 50% of people admitted to hospital from care homes were at risk of malnutrition
“Nutrition screening surveys in hospitals in the UK, 2007-2011,” BAPEN, accessed January 2016, http://www.bapen.org.uk/pdfs/nsw/bapen-nsw-uk.pdf, p.35

Social Care

  • Of residents recently admitted to care homes and screened, 35% were at risk of malnutrition
“Nutrition Screening Surveys in care homes in the UK ,” BAPEN, accessed January 2016, http://www.bapen.org.uk/pdfs/nsw/care-homes/care-homes-uk.pdf , p.7

Community

  • 22% (3 million people) of people 60+ GB (2009) skipped meals to cut back on food costs 
“ICM Cut Backs Survey,” 2009 in Later Life in the United Kingdom, Age UK
  • 42% (5.8 million people) of people 60+ GB (2009) agreed they struggle to afford essential items e.g. food, gas, electricity
“ICM Cut Backs Survey,” 2009 in Later Life in the United Kingdom, Age UK

Consequences of malnutrition

Increased use of health services

Malnourished people:

  • saw their GP twice as often,
  • had 3 times the number of hospital admissions and
  • stayed in hospital more than 3 days longer than those who were well nourished
Guest, J. F., Panca, M., Baeyens, J.P., de Man, F., Ljungqvist, O., Pichard, C.,Wait, S & Wilson, L. (2011) ‘Health economic impact of managing patients following a community-based diagnosis of malnutrition in the UK’, Clinical Nutrition, Volume 30, Issue 4 , Pages 422-429, August 2011

Impact on carers:

  • Carers UK found that 60% of carers worry about the nutrition of the person they care for. One is six carers is looking after someone at real risk of malnutrition but do not have nutritional support of any kind
“Malnutrition and Caring: The Hidden Cost for Families,” Carers UK, 2012, accessed Nov 2014, http://www.carersuk.org/scotland/news/malnutrition-s-hidden-cost-for-families

Contact us

Get in touch





Write to us

Malnutrition Task Force
Tavis House
1 - 6 Tavistock Square
London WC1H 9NA

Call us

Tel: 020 3033 1522

Email us

enquiries@malnutritiontaskforce.org.uk