The number of people living with multiple health conditions in the UK has increased dramatically, putting growing strain on NHS resources.
This is according to a new study by researchers from Cambridge University, which looked at more than 400,000 adults in England between 2012 and 2016.
It was found that 27.2 per cent were suffering from more than one health condition from a list that included high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease.
One in ten patients studied had been diagnosed with depression or anxiety, while the same number had chronic pain that required treatment.
Eight in ten prescriptions are now being issued to patients with more than one complaint, with an average of three illnesses in those aged 75 or over.
More than half of GP visits and hospital admissions were being devoted to people with multiple ailments.
Research fellow from Cambridge University Dr Duncan Edwards said: "The numbers are just startling when you see them in black and white. Much of the way the NHS is organised with single-disease clinics is really not fitting with our ageing and more multi-morbid population. We have to change how we do things."
It may be that the NHS needs to rely more strongly on community pharmacists going forward, while pharmaceutical companies are likely to be kept busy developing new treatments for these multiple conditions, perhaps including medications that do not interact with other drugs being taken at the same time.
However, Tam Fry from the National Obesity Forum laid much of the blame with patients, saying many are eating "relentlessly" despite reminders that excess weight can lead to a number of health complications.
Earlier this year, research published by Newcastle University suggested that the number of older people who have at least four different medical conditions is likely to double by 2035, a trend that was attributed to higher levels of obesity and physical inactivity.
Meanwhile, an NHS study from December 2017 found that 48 per cent of people are now taking prescription drugs, a 47 per cent increase in dispensing over the past decade.
A quarter of patients are on at least three drugs, while millions of pensioners are taking at least five different types of medication.