(DGIwire) — Why would anyone want to live longer but not healthier? A study from West Virginia University School of Medicine and the Medical University of South Carolina revealed that this is now the case for American baby boomers. More interesting is that other studies have indicated this is mostly the result of conscious and avoidable bad lifestyle choices.
The researchers wanted to know if baby boomers were living longer because they were healthier than the prior generation or simply benefiting from better medical treatments. They compared data from two sets of responses to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). Between 2007 and 2010, boomers taking the survey were between the ages of 46 and 64 with an average age of 54.1. Their elders, who took the survey between the years 1988 and 1994, were in the same age range, averaging 54.5 years old.
Although only 21.3% of boomers were smokers when they took the survey, compared with 27.6% for those in the older group, most other responses show a turn for the worse. Only 13.2% of boomers rated their own health as “excellent,” compared with 32% of their elders. They were more likely to have high blood pressure 43% compared to 36.4%, 73.5% have high cholesterol vs. 33.8% for the elders and the number with diabetes was 15.5% compared to 12%. A whopping 38.7% of reporting boomers were obese compared with 29.4% the 1988-1994 group. Today’s boomers also had a slightly higher rate of cancer (10.6% vs. 9.5%).
Worse yet, almost 7% of boomers used a “walking assist device”, double the 3.3% in the prior group. 13.5% reported some sort of functional limitation vs. 8.8%, and 13.8% had some type of work limitation compared to 10.1% for the older generation.
“These results do not surprise us since only 35% of boomers exercised regularly with 52.2% reported that they had “no regular physical activity”, compared with 49.9% regular exercisers in the 1988-1994 group and only 17.4% that reported being inactive. 67.3% of boomers reported moderate drinking compared to 37.2%,” according to Tom Griesel, co-author of TurboCharged: Accelerate Your Fat Burning metabolism, Get Lean Fast and Leave Diet and Exercise Rules in the Dust (BSH 2010).
Despite their longer life expectancy, U.S. baby boomers have higher rates of chronic disease, more disability, and lower self-rated health than members of the previous generation at the same age. With 78 million baby boomers, this situation is destined to wreak havoc with our already out-of-control healthcare costs.
Griesel adds, “If you don’t want to spend your last years in sickness, disability and immobility, you need to take immediate action whether you are a boomer or not. It is never too early or too late to make positive changes that will improve your health. You can start to lower the risk for all of these by making small changes in what you eat and how you move.”
The World Health Organization (WHO) agrees, reporting that 80% of the top chronic diseases could be avoided with diet and lifestyle changes.