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Are Baby Boomers In The Midst Of A Health Crisis?

Posted by Cody on 06/23/2015

Despite Increasing Life Expectancy, The Aging Cohort Is Less Healthy Than The Previous Generation

American Baby Boomers are more stressed, less healthy and have slightly less health care coverage than people in the same age group did a decade ago, according to data from a new report released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Exacerbating the potential for a crisis, those aged 55 to 64—the core of the Boomers—are living longer than their predecessors did 10 years ago. The charts below show that though Boomers are living longer, but aren’t necessarily living healthier lives.

Percent of Adults Aged 55-64 with Select Chronic Conditions

The 2002 number represents the condition of those aged 55-64 years old that year, while 2012 represents that same number for those aged 55-64 in 2012. Incidences of all the chronic conditions featured in the CDC report saw slight increases from 2002 to 2012. The rates above for high cholesterol and hypertension represent those who are currently taking medication to manage the condition.

Monitoring chronic conditions is essential for those aged 55-64 since diabetes, obesity and high cholesterol can increase the risk of illnesses like heart disease, the leading cause of death in the U.S.

Percent of Adults Aged 55-64 Reporting Mild to Serious Psychological Distress by Income Group

Boomers at every income level reported an increase in moderate to severe psychological distress, except those making 400% more than those in poverty.

Percent of Adults Aged 55-64 with Health Care Coverage by Income Group

Among those aged 55-64, the percentage with health care coverage slightly decreased in 2013 compared with the same age group in 2003. Despite increasing public coverage through the Affordable Care Act, the percentage of those uninsured increased for all income groups — except those in the highest-earning group — due to losses in private coverage. Only the wealthiest saw an overall increase in coverage during this interval.

Top 5 Causes of Death, Ages 55–64

For every 100,000 adults aged 55-64, there were 77 fewer deaths than the same age group 10 years ago. That’s an 8% decrease—despite increases in chronic conditions and stress.

While heart disease and cancer remain the two leading causes of death, they both claimed far fewer lives among adults aged 55-64 than 10 years ago. Chronic restrictive lung disease (CRLD) and diabetes saw smaller declines. Of the top five causes of death for Boomers, unintentional injury was the only to rise since 2003.

The seeming paradox of a decrease in the number of deaths and the worsening of health is explained in part by Americans’ increased use of prescription drugs. Adults aged 55-64 are taking more drugs than ever before, with a 29% spike in the use of anti-diabetic pills and a 54% increase in cholesterol-lowering drugs.

The trend toward prolonged treatment of chronic conditions signals how health-care workers and policymakers must prepare, in the coming years, for the largest-ever cohort to enroll in Medicare over the next ten years.

Methodology

Data is from the CDC special feature on adults aged 55-64, of the 2014 Health Report.

Dave Johnson. 5/11/2015. These Charts Show the Baby Boomers' Coming Health Crisis. Time. Retrieved May 28,2015. http://time.com/3852306/baby-boomer-health-charts/