Senior Health :

Baby Boomers Less Healthy Than Parents

Alex Lang, The Dominion Post, Morgantown, W.Va.

While the common perception might be that the generation known as the "baby boomers" is an active and healthy group, one WVU-led research project found that may not to be the case.

The research found that baby boomers reported higher rates of health issues compared to previous generations. The findings were published online this week. It is set to appear in the March edition of JAMA Internal Medicine.

Researchers from The Medical University of South Carolina also participated in the study. Baby boomers are people born near the end or shortly after World War II. For the study, researchers looked at data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. They looked at respondents who were between 46 and 64 years old in two different time periods -- baby boomers and the previous generation.

Dana E. King, chairman of the WVU Department of Family Medicine, led the project. He said the baby boomers have a reputation of being a healthy and active group, but as doctors, the researchers also see the patients in their care rooms. When the research was complete, they found the reputation to be unfounded.

"It doesn't seem to jibe with the reputation they have," King said.

In the surveys, the baby boomers said they had higher rates of health issues such as hypertension, diabetes and obesity than the previous generation. Only 13.2 percent of baby boomers reported being in "excellent" health, whereas the previous generation had 32 percent of respondents say they were in "excellent" health.

While the study didn't tell them why, it provided some clues, King said. One reason behind the poorer health might be a more sedentary lifestyle for baby boomers. More than half of baby boomers reported no regular physical activity, but only 17.4 percent of the previous generation had the same response.

Local resident Judy Garvey, 63, said she doesn't have much of a workout regimen. But she looks around and sees some people in worse health than herself and some in a better situation.

She said she has better health than only one of her parents. Her father died at age 62, but her mother is 81-years-old and just started to have health problems.

Fellow Morgantownarea resident Kerri Campbell, 53, said her health is worse than her parents at the same age. She has numerous medical issues including lupus and arthritis, among a host of others.

The survey results didn't come as much of a shock, but Campbell said that is due to medical advancements. She added that her generation is more likely to go to a doctor to get something checked on, so their reported number of cases should be higher.

Baby boomers do present some challenges for the already strained medical community. King said there are 78 million Boomers and they will be added to 40 million people already aged 65 or older.

"Even if they were healthy, it'd be a tremendous burden on the medical system," King said.

Baby boomers are starting to enter ages where they have their highest medical costs, he said.

(c)2013 The Dominion Post (Morgantown, W.Va.)

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