Baby boomers' health worse than their parents reports new study

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2013-02-05 17:29

According to a new study, despite their longer life expectancy over previous generations, US baby boomers have higher rates of chronic disease, more disability, and lower self-rated health than members of the previous generation at the same age. These sad statistics were reported online on February 4 in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.

The study authors are affiliated with West Virginia University School of Medicine, Morgantown. They note that from 1946 through 1964, 78 million baby boomers were born in the United States. In 2010, they comprised 26.1% of the US population. Medicine has improved significantly during baby boomers’ lifetimes. These advancements have led to a progressively increasing life expectancy; however, previous studies have shown mixed results regarding whether baby boomers are healthier than prior generations. Therefore, the researchers examined the health status of aging baby boomers relative to the previous generation. Their goal was to provide a vitally important context for health workforce and policy planning in the coming years.

The investigators reviewed data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, focusing on middle-aged respondents (aged 46 - 64 years) from two periods: 1988 to 1994 and 2007 to 2010. They compared the two groups in regard to their self-reported health status, functional and work disability, healthy lifestyle characteristics, and whether they were affected by chronic diseases. The researchers found that the overall health status was lower in baby boomers: only 13.2% reported ‘excellent’ health compared to 32% of individuals in the previous generation. More baby boomers were found to be suffering from disability; more than twice as many baby boomers used walking assist devices (6.9% vs. 3.3%), more were limited in their work by disability (13.8% vs. 10.1%), and 13.5% vs. 8.8% were coping with some type of functional limitation.

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