Study Finds Americans Over 50 Live Longer, But Not Necessarily Better
Americans ages 50 and older "generally can expect to live longer -- but not necessarily better" than they did 20 years ago, according to a report released today by AARP. The Wall Street Journal reports that AARP, an advocacy group for Americans ages 50 and older, analyzed more than 100 surveys and databanks concerning the financing and use of medical care and researched seniors' attitudes about their personal level of health and the quality of medical care they receive. The sources used in the research included the Current Population Survey of 50,000 households and an AARP survey of 500 people (Greene, Wall Street Journal, 5/21). The report found that while today's seniors live longer, smoke less and have fewer disabilities than former generations, they are more likely to be overweight or obese and to have a chronic health condition (Simmons, Washington Post, 5/21). The smoking rate for Americans ages 50 and older has dropped 29% over the past 10 years, and the number of seniors who report receiving routine preventive services has increased, according to the report. But from 1982 to 1999, the percentage of obese seniors nearly doubled, from 14.4% to 26.7%, and obesity "threatens to outweigh the gains in prevention of other diseases," Susan Raetzman, associate director of AARP's Public Policy Institute, said (AP/Las Vegas Sun, 5/20). The study also found that:
- In 1999, 14% of all Americans ages 50 to 64 were uninsured, while 20% of blacks and 33% of Latinos did not have insurance.
- A majority of seniors have at least one chronic medical condition, and heart disease and cancer have been the leading causes of death for people ages 50 and older for the past 20 years (Washington Post, 5/21).
- Between 1977 and 1996, health care spending for Americans ages 50 and older increased 310% -- almost twice as much as inflation -- largely because of rising prescription drug costs (AP/Las Vegas Sun, 5/20).
- Americans ages 50 to 64 are "more skeptical" and "more proactive" in their dealings with the health care system than those older than them.
The report recommends an increase in public funding for prescription drugs, long-term care and programs to help the uninsured, the Washington Post reports. It also advocates a "philosophical shift" in the nation's health care system toward offering more preventive care, wellness services and disease management programs as opposed to acute care services (Washington Post, 5/21).
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