Baby Boomers Health Degrades With Age At More Alarming Rate Than Any Other Generation

By Rachel Morris | Wednesday, 22 June 2022 05:15
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There's some discouraging news for baby boomers.

According to a new study, Americans born from 1948 to 1965 are more prone than the generations that preceded them to have several health problems as they age..

Furthermore, many develop two or more health conditions up to 20 years sooner than people from other generations.

Baby boomers, up until recently the largest generation group in U.S. history, have always been a force to reckon with because of their sheer numbers. They have transformed every market they enter, beginning with the diaper industry when they were born and then public schools, so it makes sense that boomers are further upending what aging looks like.

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For the study, researchers examined data on Americans aged 51 and older who took part in a biennial study sponsored by the U.S. National Institute on Aging.

Generational timelines often differ. Though this study classified people, based on the generation they were born into, like the: Greatest generation (born 1923 or earlier); early children of the Depression (1924 to 1930); late children of the Depression (1931 to 1941); war babies (1942 to 1947); early boomers (1948 to 1953); mid boomers (1954 to 1959); and late baby boomers (born 1960 to 1965). The researchers looked at nine chronic conditions: heart disease; high blood pressure; stroke; diabetes; arthritis; lung disease; cancer (except skin cancer); depression symptoms; and trouble with memory and thinking skills.

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Among adults with many chronic health issues, arthritis and high blood pressure were the most common for all generations.

Yet higher rates of depression and diabetes drove the surge in chronic conditions seen in boomers, the investigators discovered.

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Notably, sociodemographic factors further seemed to affect the risk of multimorbidity among all generations. Instances include race and ethnicity, whether the person was born in the U.S., childhood socioeconomic situations, and childhood health.

The most common conditions seen in adults with multimorbidity (across all generations) were arthritis and hypertension. Furthermore, some collected evidence proposes both high depressive symptoms and diabetes contributed to the observed generational multimorbidity risk differences.

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Study authors explain there are many potential explanations for these findings.

“Later-born generations have had access to more advanced modern medicine for a greater period of their lives, therefore we may expect them to enjoy better health than those born to prior generations,” concludes Nicholas Bishop, assistant professor at Texas State University. “Though this is partially true, advanced medical treatments may enable individuals to live with multiple chronic conditions that once would have proven fatal, potentially increasing the likelihood that any one person experiences multimorbidity.”

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Study author Steven Haas said the research was designed to spot trends, not to understand what's driving them.

Though, Haas went on, a confluence of factors is likely involved, including increasing rates of obesity as well as social factors, such as income inequality and reduced upward mobility.

"There have been improvements in treating some chronic diseases over the past few decades, which allows people to live longer with disease and as a result leads to higher population-level rates of disease," announced Haas, an associate professor of sociology and demography at Pennsylvania State University in University Park.

Haas further stated that technology is helping doctors diagnose some conditions earlier than ever, which further leads to higher numbers. The discoveries were published recently in The Journals of Gerontology: Social Sciences.

The trends portend an increased strain not just on the well-being of older Americans, but further on government and private health insurance systems.

Dr. Catherine Sarkisian, a geriatrician and professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, announced the study underscores the value of leading a healthy lifestyle, no matter your generation.

"We should all be exercising every day, and this includes aerobic activity and strength training to help prevent falls, improve mobility, and [boost] metabolism," stated Sarkisian, who reviewed the findings.

It's further important to maintain normal body weight, as obesity is a risk for many chronic health conditions, she went on. "We have dramatically increased the percentage of our population that is obese, and along with this there is an increased burden of diabetes and other diseases," Sarkisian announced.

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