Objectives: Many developed countries have seen declining mortality rates for heart disease, together with an alleged decline in incidence and a seemingly paradoxical increase in health care demands. This paper presents a model for forecasting the plausible evolution of heart disease morbidity.
Methods: The simulation model combines data from different sources. It generates acute coronary event and mortality rates from published data on incidences, recurrences, and lethalities of different heart disease conditions and interventions. Forecasts are based on plausible scenarios for declining incidence and increasing survival.
Results: Mortality is postponed more than incidence. Prevalence rates of morbidity will decrease among the young and middle-aged but increase among the elderly. As the milder disease states act as risk factors for the more severe states, effects will culminate in the most severe disease states with a disproportionate increase in older people.
Conclusions: Increasing health care needs in the face of declining mortality rates are no contradiction, but reflect a tradeoff of mortality for morbidity. The aging of the population will accentuate this morbidity increase.