Rate of Obesity Among Seniors Doubles Between 1980 and 2001, Study Finds
The proportion of U.S. seniors who are obese increased to 36% in 2002 from 18% in 1980, raising the population's risk for diabetes, heart and lung disease, breast and colon cancer, arthritis and injury, while also contributing to increased medical costs, according to a report released Thursday, the Orlando Sentinel reports.
The report, which was completed by researchers from 12 federal agencies and compiled by the Federal Interagency Forum on Aging-Related Statistics, found that the number of overweight U.S. residents ages 65 to 74 increased to 73% in 2002 from 57% in 1980. Over the same time period, the proportion of U.S. seniors who died from diabetes increased by 43%, according to the report. The increase in overweight and obese seniors account for about $30 billion to $40 billion in annual health care costs, according to the report.
The report also found that:
- Out-of-pocket expenses for seniors' prescription drugs increased to $562 annually in 2000 from $312 annually in 1992 (Kunerth, Orlando Sentinel, 11/19);
- The number of hospital stays covered by Medicare increased to 364 per 1,000 beneficiaries in 2001 from 306 per 1,000 beneficiaries in 1992.
- The number of doctor visits increased to 13,685 per 1,000 Medicare beneficiaries in 2001 from 11,359 per 1,000 beneficiaries in 1992;
- The number of nursing home stays increased to 69 per 1,000 beneficiaries in 2001 from 28 in 1992 (Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 11/19).
Increased spending on medications could prevent some seniors from making healthy nutritional choices because of cost concerns, according to Anthony Douglas, a Florida Hospital internal-medicine specialist. He added, "All these great medications are out there now for cholesterol and high blood pressure. We've sort of created the gluttony pills: Why go out and exercise if you can just take a pill?"
National Institute on Aging Associate Director Richard Suzman said, "Everybody is surprised by it. Some researchers have projected that the increase in obesity, especially in the younger age groups, could bring ... to an end" the trend of longer lifespans (Orlando Sentinel, 11/19). HHS Assistant Secretary for Aging Josefina Carbonell said that overall, ''the vast majority of older Americans are doing well" and "enormous progress has been made in the health and well-being of older Americans" (Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 11/19). The report is available online.