Over Half Of UK Adults In The North West Think Strokes Don’t Affect Young People
Over half (60%) of the UK population wrongly believe that strokes don't happen to young adults, according to new research revealed today by the Stroke Association.
Despite 54% of UK adults knowing someone who has had a stroke, there is still a common public misconception that the condition only affects older people, when in fact one in four strokes happen in people of working age. The charity has released the data ahead of World Stroke Day (Sunday 29 October), to warn that not only can stroke affect anyone at any age, but that young stroke survivors are missing out on significant milestones in their lives as a result.
The charity also carried out a survey of over 2,800 stroke survivors3, which shockingly, found that a quarter of young stroke survivors aged 18-60 (25%) feel their stroke has robbed them of their future.
Over a third of survivors aged between 18-60 (37%) said that before their stroke, they didn’t think strokes happened to people of their age. While over half of these young stroke survivors (56%) say their stroke has prevented them achieving an important life goal, such as progressing their careers or starting new relationships.
For survivors aged 18-60, the Stroke Association’s survey revealed:
Over half of stroke survivors (51%) said their stroke had negatively impacted their careers, and stopped them getting a job, being promoted or changing career.
A quarter of stroke survivors (26%) said their stroke had stopped them achieving their dream of going travelling.
Around 16% of stroke survivors said their stroke had stopped them from making new friends.
More than one in ten (11%) said their stroke prevented them from gaining new qualifications.
Almost one in ten (9%) said their stroke has stopped them finding a partner.
In addition, almost two thirds of those surveyed (62%) said they now feel like a different person since their stroke. The effects of stroke are often devastating, with lives changed in an instant and survivors often left with serious long-term health issues.
The research found that a staggering three quarters (78%) of stroke survivors aged 60 and under are struggling with fatigue since their stroke, while almost two thirds (61%) are living with depression or anxiety. More than half of respondents aged 60 and under (58%) now experience one-sided weakness, while almost two thirds (63%) are living with memory problems following their stroke.
Rachel Hardy, 28, from Manchester, had a stroke on 13 January 2023 aged just 27. Sporty and an avid gym-goer, Rachel loved her bustling city lifestyle with her friends. But since her stroke – caused by a condition she has had since birth –Rachel has had put on hold what many people in their twenties take for granted.
Currently managing the effects of fatigue, sight loss and aphasia – a speech and communication disorder she has as a result of the stroke that has meant she is relearning how to read – Rachel wants others to understand the impact stroke can have at such a young age.
“I was really passionate about my job and was a very social person. I lived with my housemate and our dog and lived a very busy life. I was planning on joining a walking group. I was very into the gym, and not being able to do everything there now has been a really hard thing in my recovery.
“Socialising has been very difficult during my recovery. There’s been a lot I’ve had to work on which has probably made me less sociable and more anxious doing those things. I’m very much not the ‘life and soul of the party’ anymore but I do have very good friends who have really supported me.”
Rachel was at work on the day of her stroke. After a busy morning working in Derbyshire, she had driven back to the office. She then started to experience a bad headache.
Believing she had a migraine, she decided to work from home the rest of the afternoon. But her condition took a drastic turn during her car journey home.
“I managed to drive for around 10 minutes and realised I wasn’t going to be able to continue because I felt so poorly. I found somewhere to pull over. I had been driving through the Peak District, so I had very little signal. I rang my friend and my mum, and they said I should call 999.
“I rang 999 They said I’d have to find my own way there. I didn’t know what to do because I knew I couldn’t drive. I could barely see. I flagged down a car and explained that I was feeling really poorly, and I couldn’t drive."
The passerby drove Rachel all the way to Stepping Hill Hospital. Now unable to walk, she was taken in for an MRI scan and doctors discovered a massive bleed on her brain which was causing the stroke.
Put into a coma, Rachel was blue lighted to Salford Hospital for emergency surgery.
Her mum, who had travelled up from Cambridge to be with her, and her flatmate were told it was very likely Rachel would not survive the surgery. Thankfully, during five hours of surgery, the area of the bleed was removed, and Rachel was monitored closely before she was brought out of the coma a few days later.
Rachel’s mobility returned extremely quickly – so much so that doctors were happy to allow her to return home with her mum.
“Though it was very tiring, I was making quite a quick recovery with my mobility. The doctors agreed for me to be discharged on 29 January, partly because I’m a very determined person, and I was also really frightened, so they agreed to it as long as I was full time staying with my mum in Cambridge.”
Rachel was left with aphasia and had to have intensive speech and language therapy. She has struggled with her mental health and coming to terms with all that had happened.
“At first, I was so grateful to be alive and to have survived it. But as time went on, I started to think, ‘my God, what on earth has happened? Things have been very different with my mental health for a while now. I always did have that background thought of whether it was all because of anything I did, even though it wasn’t. You really question things.
“With my aphasia it is hard for me to read to get access to things. Most people don’t have to worry about that – they just give it a google. But now it takes ages to do everything. It can be so complex. Having the support of the Stroke Association just makes my stress around it all a quarter of what it was.”
Currently unable to return to work, Rachel is determined to push her recovery further. She is also waiting to have surgery again to reattach her skull following the initial life-saving operation, which she hopes will drastically alleviate the severe nerve pain she currently lives with.
“I’m still relearning a lot of things and working on my reading. I can’t always remember exactly how to spell a word. I’m an English graduate, and a social worker I’m used to doing so much reading and writing, so it’s really odd. But it’s still improving. It’s been pretty amazing how quickly I have regained and developed my speech.
“Before all this, I didn’t have a clue that a stroke could happen at a young age. Stroke in young people needs to be spoken about much more widely. For me, it felt like there was a stigma around it because I was so worried about people judging me. That is something that was, and sometimes still is, very frustrating.”
Rachel is now calling for more awareness of the fact stroke can happen to anyone, at any age.
There are over 100,000 strokes each year and 1.3 million stroke survivors living in the UK today, with these numbers only set to grow. With an increasing number of people surviving stroke and an ageing population, by 2035, the number of stroke survivors living in the UK is expected to rise to over 2 million. The estimated overall cost of stroke in the UK is set to rise from £26 billion in 2015 to £75 billion in 2035, an increase of 194% over 20 years, presenting increasing societal challenges in future.
The Stroke Association is aiming to raise awareness of the support it provides for stroke survivors of any age across the UK, to help rebuild lives and support stroke survivors to achieve their life goals.
Alexis Kolodziej, Executive Director at the Stroke Association, said:
“Our research highlights that people still think stroke is a condition that only affects older people. It’s crucial that we challenge this misconception and make people aware that stroke affects young adults too.
“Stroke simply shouldn’t be a key milestone in a young adult’s life. When planning for the future, no one prepares to have a stroke. Yet one in four strokes happen in people of working age and around 400 children have a stroke in the UK every year.
“After a stroke, life changes in a flash. Two thirds of people who survive a stroke find themselves living with a disability. As a result, young stroke survivors are having important milestones and their planned futures stolen from them, while they have to learn to adapt to their new life affected by stroke.
“At the Stroke Association, we know the value that life after stroke support plays in rebuilding lives. A stroke doesn't have to stop you from doing the things you want to do. The Stroke Association provides support that covers every aspect of a survivor’s recovery, so you are not just living to survive, but able to live life again.”
If you know a stroke survivor of any age, visit stroke.org.uk/worldstrokeday
to find out more about support available and ensure they don’t miss out on important life milestones. To find out if any of our services are available in your area, you can use our search tool or call the Stroke Helpline on 0303 3033 100.