What is the scale of malnutrition in the UK?

BAPEN’s Malnutrition and Nutritional Care Survey in Adults 2022 revealed that nearly half (45%) of all adults screened across health and care settings in the UK were found to be at risk of disease-related malnutrition – the highest figure since this screening begun in 2019 (2021, 39%; 2020; 40%, 2019; 42%).

The survey, which was carried out in October 2022, found that the prevalence of malnutrition was highest in individuals with cancer (62%), gastrointestinal conditions (50%), respiratory conditions (48%), frailty (45%) and neurological diseases (43%).

When assessing malnutrition prevalence by setting, the findings indicate risk is highest in those in their own homes (56%) and in residents in care homes (55%). In hospitals, 44% of patients were at risk of malnutrition.

Using the Malnutrition Universal Screening Tool (‘MUST’) – the most used malnutrition screening tool in the UK – the survey screens adults of all ages and from a range of settings and with many different diagnoses. Patients screened had a range of primary diagnoses, including neurological diseases (20%), gastrointestinal conditions (16%), frailty (12%), cancer (9%) and a variety of other conditions (respiratory (including COVID-19), falls and fractures, cardiovascular). Around one quarter of patients (24%) were underweight, 17% were obese and 26% had unplanned weight loss.

In addition to exploring the prevalence of malnutrition, this survey also assessed the use of nutritional care. Compared to last year the presence of nutritional care plans in place overall increased to 62% (vs only 50% in 2021) and for both medium risk patients (from 66% to 71%) and high-risk patients (from 76% to 91%).

How is malnutrition recognised?

How much does malnutrition cost the UK?