Skip to content

The public don’t know the kidney basics

10 March 2022

This World Kidney Day we are uncovering the uncomfortable truth that the general public have a shocking lack of knowledge about their kidneys and aren’t aware of the devastating consequences of kidney failure. Our survey asked over 2,000 UK adults basic questions about the kidneys and kidney disease, and the results have underlined the need to show that kidneys matter.

Despite nearly 9 out of 10 (89%) respondents believing they had a good knowledge of the kidneys’ function, 81% couldn’t identify where the kidneys are. In addition, 80% didn’t know the kidneys filtered blood.

Those at risk living in the dark

The results highlight a worrying lack of understanding of a vital organ that 25% of respondents believed we could live without. Participants were also asked about their current health to identify whether they had any risk factors for kidney disease. Shockingly, 60% of those who were at risk didn’t believe they were, highlighting that many people are living in ignorance of the risks they face and unable to take steps to help themselves. Despite four in 10 (39%) respondents being at some risk of kidney disease, just 5% of those surveyed placed the disease at the top of their health concerns.

Run by an independent agency, the nationally representative survey addressed some of the most common misconceptions around kidney disease. Transplantation is not a cure for kidney disease however, 67% of the general public incorrectly believed it was. Kidney transplants last on average 10-15 years, but half of UK adults (49%) think kidney transplants last a lifetime, highlighting the scale of the knowledge gaps around kidney disease.

Sandra Currie, chief executive at Kidney Research UK said: “Despite their incredibly important role in keeping our body functioning, the kidneys are worryingly overlooked. These results confirm our fears that most people have very little understanding about the kidneys and kidney disease. Most concerning is the number of people who are unaware of their risk of developing kidney disease. In fact, we estimate around a million people in the UK could be living with kidney disease without knowing. This World Kidney Day, we’re urging everyone to use our online kidney health check to understand their risks.”

High blood pressure, diabetes, obesity or a severe or frequent previous kidney infection are some of the most common risk factors for developing kidney disease. While not everyone who has been diagnosed with these conditions will develop the disease, the added risk means checking your kidney health regularly could identify signs of the disease early and lead to better outcomes.

Simple measures can help keep kidneys healthy 


Professor Liz Lightstone, professor of renal medicine at Imperial College London and trustee at Kidney Research UK said: “It is so important for us all to know what the kidneys do and how to take care of them. Living in the dark can have catastrophic consequences. If you know you are at risk, there are simple measures you can take to keep your kidneys healthy like taking regular exercise, eating a healthy low salt diet and monitoring your blood pressure.  This is especially true if you have diabetes or a family history of kidney disease.  Untreated kidney disease can lead to kidney failure and the impact this has on patients and their families is monumental. With no cure available once kidneys have failed, only gruelling, life-limiting treatments such as dialysis or a transplant, it is critical to spot kidney disease early.”  


Do you know whether you are at risk of kidney disease?

Take our kidney health check to find out if you're at risk.

Scroll To Top