Baby boomers might be the first generation to enter retirement in worse health than their parents, according to a growing body of evidence, the Washington Post reports. According to the Post, while baby boomers “are healthier in some important ways,” such as being less likely to smoke, “large surveys are consistently finding that [baby boomers] tend to describe themselves as less hale and hearty” than their parents at the same age. According to data from the Health and Retirement Study, baby boomers born between 1948 and 1953 were less likely than their parents to describe their health as “very good” or “excellent,” and they were more likely to report difficulties with routine activities, such as walking a short distance or lifting 10 pounds. Baby boomers also were more likely to experience chronic health problems, such as high cholesterol, blood pressure and diabetes, the study found. According to researchers, the growing number of studies indicating the poor health of baby boomers parallels several unhealthy nationwide trends, such as obesity, physical inactivity and higher stress levels. If such research is confirmed, it “could force policymakers to rethink a host of expectations and projections about the nation’s overall medical bill and the future of Social Security and other retirement programs,” the Post reports. However, some researchers say that the rising rates of chronic disease might indicate better and earlier diagnosis, which could translate into longer lives as patients successfully manage their conditions. In addition, researchers note that the U.S. life expectancy has increased consistently for decades, while the disability rate has been steadily dropping. Other researchers say it still is too early to be sure this generation is less healthy because their conditions have yet to translate into major health problems. Researchers also hypothesize that baby boomers actually might not be sicker but are more health conscious or have higher expectations for their health (Stein, Washington Post, 4/20).
“Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives, or sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork/dailyreports/healthpolicy. The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report is published for kaisernetwork, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation . © 2005 Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.