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Health Impacting Diseases and Conditions

Examining the prevalence of Arthritis, Mental Health, Diabetes and Obesity in the North East

Population and health
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How are Arthritis, Mental Health, Diabetes and Obesity Measured?

The prevalence of musculoskeletal (MSK) problems, including arthritis, are measured as the percentage of people aged 16+ reporting a long-term MSK condition, either arthritis or ongoing problems with their back or joints in proportion to the number of people on the GP Patient Survey (GPPS). The Rheumatoid Arthritis rate measures the proportion of patients (16+) with rheumatoid arthritis on the register.

The mental health data is taken from two sources. The first chart in the mental health section shows the proportion of people in contact with mental health services at the end of April 2023. The second chart shows the mental health detentions and is taken from the Emergency Care Data Set (ECDS); it shows the number of patients detained under the Mental Health Act 1983. Population figures are based on ONS mid 2020 population estimates for 2020 Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) mapped to 2021 CCG.

The diabetes data gives the estimated number of people aged 16 years or older who have diabetes (diagnosed and undiagnosed) with measures taken from the latest Health Surveys for England. The denominator is population estimates, provided by ONS.

The obesity indicator presents local authority estimates from Sport England's Active Lives Adult Survey data which helps inform local action in preventing obesity and supporting people living overweight or with obesity. The measure analysed here is the percentage of adults aged 18 and over classified as obese (BMI greater than or equal to 30kg/m²) and in some graphs overweight (BMI greater than or equal to 25kg/m²).

The conditions described above are all prevalent conditions for North East residents and affect quality of life and the ability to work to varying degrees.

Musculoskeletal Conditions

Between 2018 and 2022, all three of the regional areas measured had reduced rates of long-term musculoskeletal conditions. In the North East region, this proportion dropped from 24.4% in 2018 to 22.1% in 2022. This was the largest reduction across that period of time for all areas measured; the North East however still remains the area with the highest musculoskeletal reporting rates: 2.4pp higher than the North West and 4.5pp higher than England in 2021. The high prevalence of musculoskeletal conditions in the North East may be partially driven by the age structure of the population, with North East residents tending to be older on average.

Within North East LEP Local Authorities (LAs), Newcastle upon Tyne had the lowest rates of people reporting a musculoskeletal condition, at 17.7%. The other LAs all had reporting rates above 20.7% and less than 23.3%.

The incidence rates of Rheumatoid Arthritis did not vary between measured regions: all had 0.8%. There was variation between North East LEP LAs. Following the musculoskeletal conditions trend, Newcastle upon Tyne had the lowest incidence rates of Rheumatoid Arthritis at 0.6%; Gateshead and Northumberland both had 1.2% incidence rates of Rheumatoid Arthritis, the highest in North East LEP LAs.

Mental Health Conditions

In this report, a person is considered to be ‘in contact’ with mental health services if they have had an open referral with secondary mental health, learning disabilities and autism services during 2021-22. This may include referrals which did not result in an attendance with a service or treatment being received. This also only shows those who had a referral; there will be others who have not yet sought mental health services, so the incidence rates are likely to be higher, as with most health conditions.

The Newcastle Gateshead and Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCG) had the lowest proportion of the population in contact with mental health services at 3.5%: County Durham and South Tyneside CCGs had the highest, both at 4.7%. Over the four years between May 2020 to May 2023, County Durham and South Tyneside also tended to have higher proportions of people in contact with mental health services. These values have increased considerably across the past four years. When compared to the national average, the North East LEP CCGs tend to have a higher proportion of people in contact with mental health services; the national proportion has also increased significantly over the four years measured.

Similar trends are also reflected in the proportion of people detained under the 1983 mental health act. Northumberland CCG had the lowest at 0.07% of people and County Durham and South Tyneside had the highest at 0.11%.

Diabetes Rates

Diabetes rates in the North East and England are very similar. Whilst there is roughly 0.01% difference in diabetes rates between the North East and England, these values have been relatively static between years with some minor increases. Between 2015 to 2020, the estimated diabetes rates have increased by 0.33pp in the North East and 0.32pp in England, relatively small. This measure estimates that in 2020, 8.92% of the population in the North East had diabetes.

The second graph shows the estimated rates of diabetes for the North East LEP area, England and LAs in North East LEP in 2025. It estimates that 9.2% of the population in the North East and England will have diabetes, but incidence rates vary significantly between North East LAs. Newcastle upon Tyne is estimated to have the lowest at 7.6% and Northumberland the highest at 10.3%. The other areas all have estimated diabetes rates between 9% and 10%.

The latest obesity data

At the regional level, the North East had the highest proportion of obese adults in 2021/22: this was 32.4%. The next highest area was the West Midlands which had a proportion of 28.8% of obese adults.

This trend is continuing upwards in all regions; there was a one-off downtick in obesity rates in 2018/19 which had the largest effect on the North East region.

Within the North East Local Authorities in 2021/22, South Tyneside had the highest adult overweight rates at 76.3%: the lowest rate was 63.4% in Northumberland. Northumberland also had the lowest rates of Y6 childhood obesity rate: 21.7%. The area with the highest rates of Y6 childhood obesity was Sunderland with 29.4%.