Californians with the Top Chronic Conditions: 11 Million and Counting

UCLA Center for Health Policy Research

Chronic conditions such as asthma, diabetes, and heart disease are taking a toll on our state. This Almanac report looks at how five major diseases affect Californians.

April 2015

Chronic conditions are the leading cause of death and disability in the US, and the biggest contributor to health care costs. But there is wide variation in their incidence, with major differences depending on age, income, race and ethnicity, and insurance status. In addition, many Californians with chronic conditions are delaying needed care because of cost.

Californians with the Top Chronic Conditions: 11 Million and Counting looks at five major chronic conditions — asthma, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and serious psychological distress — and how each of these affects Californians.

Key findings include:



About 40% of California adults reported having at least one of the five chronic conditions studied.

Number of Chronic Conditions Among Adults, California, 2011 to 2012


High blood pressure is the most common chronic condition, affecting about one in four, or 7.6 million, adults in California.

Prevalence of Chronic Conditions Among Adults, California, 2011 to 2012


As household income rises, the prevalence of chronic conditions falls. Adults living under 138% of the federal poverty level were more likely to have two or more chronic conditions (14%) than those in the highest income group, 400%+ of the federal poverty level (8%).

Chronic Conditions Among Adults, by Federal Poverty Level, California, 2011 to 2012


Many people with chronic conditions delay getting needed care. Of Californians with serious psychological distress, 34% delayed needed medical care, and 27% delayed filling prescriptions (not shown). Cost or lack of insurance was frequently cited as the reason for these delays.

Delayed Medical Care, by Chronic Condition, Adults, California, 2011 to 2012


The prevalence of chronic conditions increases with age. Of Californians age 65 or older, 70% have at least one chronic condition, compared to 26% of those age 18 to 39.

Chronic Conditions Among Adults, by Age, California, 2011 to 2012


The proportion of California adults with chronic conditions varied by region. About 45% of adults in the Inland Empire, San Joaquin Valley, and Northern and Sierra Counties had at least one chronic condition, compared to 36% of adults in Orange County.

Chronic Conditions Among Adults, by Region, California, 2011 to 2012

The complete report, all the charts found in the report, and the 2007 edition, are available under Document Downloads.