Stroke rates soar in NI

Stroke rates soar among men and women in Northern Ireland
More people living with the financial impact of stroke

The number of strokes occurring in men aged between 40 and 54 in Northern Ireland has more than doubled in less than 12 years, according to the Stroke Association (i)

An analysis of hospital admission data by the charity, to mark Action on Stroke Month 2015, reveals that in 2002, there were over 123 hospital admissions for stroke among men aged between 40 and 54 in Northern Ireland. This figure rocketed to 252 in 2014 – an increase of 105%. It is thought that the rise is due to increasing sedentary and unhealthy lifestyles, and changes in hospital admission practice.

The charity’s research shows the number of women aged 40-54 admitted to hospital after a stroke in the last 12 years has also soared – from 100 in 2002 to 179 in 2014 – a dramatic increase of 79%.(ii) Overall, the number of strokes occurring in people of working age (20-64) in Northern Ireland has shot up by 93% since 2002. (iii)

Tom Richardson, Northern Ireland Director of the Stroke Association, said; “These figures show that stroke can no longer be seen as a disease of older people. There is an alarming increase in the numbers of people having a stroke in working age. This comes at a huge cost, not only to the individual, but also to their families and to health and social care services.

“The simple truth is that we must do more to raise people’s awareness of risk factors, to help prevent them from having a stroke. With many more stroke patients now receiving emergency medical treatment, we need the right health and social care services available. People must have the support they need to make the best possible recovery and avoid having to cope for decades with the disabilities that stroke can bring.”

There are over 4,400 strokes each year in Northern Ireland, and half of all stroke survivors are left with a disability.

The charity is warning that the rise in working age stroke means more people will be forced to live with the heavy financial impact of the condition. Stroke survivors unable to return to work can struggle to cope with a fall in income, increased household bills and a benefits system which does not recognise the full impact of stroke. Overall, stroke costs the UK economy around £9bn a year. Loss of income, due to death and disability from stroke alone, is over £1.3billion each year.(iv)

A survey of businesses regarding their attitudes on the impact of stroke on their staff, for Action on Stroke Month 2015, showed that:(v)

  • Just one in 20 employers recognised cognitive difficulties as a symptom of stroke.
  • When asked why businesses might be reluctant to employ a stroke survivor, two fifths (42%) said that they would have concerns about the impact of a stroke on an employee’s ability to carry out their role.
  • Half (50%) had not heard of the Government’s Access to Work Scheme. (vi)

Mr Richardson said; “Having a stroke is bad enough, but being written off by your employer through a lack of understanding can be catastrophic. Businesses play a crucial role in helping stroke survivors get back into the workplace and on the road to recovery. That’s why we’re calling on employers to be aware of the physical and emotional impact of stroke.” 

Brendan Roach, Senior Disability Consultant at Business Disability Forum, added; “Our experience of working with organisations for over 20 years demonstrates that businesses with an effective and well publicised process for making disability-related workplace adjustments are best placed to meet the challenge of risings rates of stroke. That’s why we’re supporting the Stroke Association’s work to encourage employers to understand the needs of stroke survivors and become ‘disability-smart’. “

The Stroke Association provides advice and practical support to help stroke survivors return to employment. For more information, visit www.stroke.org.uk or call 0303 303 310

(i) Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety, Northern Ireland. (2014). Admissions to HSC Hospitals in Northern Ireland for Stroke by gender, age and Local Commissioning Group, 2000/01 – 2013/14. Bespoke requested data, September 2014.

(ii) Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety, Northern Ireland. (2014). Admissions to HSC Hospitals in Northern Ireland for Stroke by gender, age and Local Commissioning Group, 2000/01 – 2013/14. Bespoke requested data, September 2014.

(iii) Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety, Northern Ireland. (2014). Admissions to HSC Hospitals in Northern Ireland for Stroke by gender, age and Local Commissioning Group, 2000/01 – 2013/14. Bespoke requested data, September 2014.

(iv) Saka O, McGuire A, Wolfe C. (2009). Cost of stroke in the United Kingdom. Age and Ageing (2009).

(v) Opinium Research LLP poll carried out with 500 senior managers in small and medium sized businesses (less than 250 employees) in the UK.

(vi) The Access to Work Scheme provides support to people who have a disability that makes working a problem.  The scheme provides practical advice and support to help people overcome work-related obstacles. For more information, visit: https://www.gov.uk/access-to-work

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