Health and Functioning Among Baby Boomers Approaching 60

Published In: The Journals of Gerontology. Series B, Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, v. 64B, no. 3, May 2009, p. 369-377

Posted on RAND.org on December 31, 2008

by Linda G. Martin, Vicki A. Freedman, Robert F. Schoeni, Patricia M. Andreski

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OBJECTIVE: To investigate whether the health and functioning of the Baby Boom generation are better or worse than those of previous cohorts in middle age. METHODS: Trend analysis of vital statistics and self-reports from the National Health Interview Survey for the 40-59 population. Specific outcomes (years of data): mortality (1982-2004); poor or fair health (1982-2006); nine conditions (1997-2006); physical functional limitations (1997-2006); and needing help with personal care, routine needs, or either (1997-2006). RESULTS: In 2005, the mortality rate of 59-year-olds, the leading edge of the Baby Boom, was 31% lower than that of 59-year-olds in 1982 (8.3 vs. 12.1 per 1,000). There was a similar proportional decline in poor/fair health, but the decline reversed in the last decade. From 1997 to 2006, the prevalence of reports of four conditions increased significantly, but this trend may reflect improvements in diagnosis and treatment. Functional limitations and need for help with routine needs were stable, but the need for help with personal care, while quite low, increased. DISCUSSION: Trends varied by indicator, period, and age. It is surprising that, given the socioeconomic, medical, and public health advantages of Baby Boomers throughout their lives, they are not doing considerably better on all counts.

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