Heart failure? That’s less important than potholes, most people seem to believe

Heart failure is widely not considered in public discourse.

Heart failure? That’s less important than potholes, most people seem to believe

Heart failure is a global epidemic affecting some 65 million people all around the world. Yet despite this, and despite the fact that the figure is projected to rise steeply, it’s not given much attention in public discourse. In fact, according to a new study, it’s deemed even less prevalent than potholes. If the heart becomes too weak or stiff, it may not be able to pump blood around the body properly. This is called heart failure. Heart failure is a common, costly, and potentially fatal condition. For older adults, it’s the leading cause of hospitalization and readmission — as 1 in 5 people with the condition will return to the hospital within 30 days of discharge. In addition, 1-2% of the annual healthcare budget in Europe and the USA is spent on heart failure.In major segments of the population, heart failure is as dangerous as cancer or dementia. So why don’t we talk about it more?

To see just how popular heart failure is in public discourse, a team of researchers working in the UK analyzed data from the Oxford English Corpus (OEC), a text corpus of 21st-century English-language texts numbering 2 billion words — the largest corpus of its kind. The team also analyzed data from parliamentary debates in the UK from 1945 to 2021 to see how often cancer, dementia, and heart failure are discussed.

In the UK, heart failure and dementia have comparable incidences, affecting around 200,000 and 209,000 people respectively, and killing around 64,000 and 66,400 respectively. The number of both new cases and fatal cases of cancer is in the range of twice as high as those conditions. But cancer receives substantially more attention.