A recent study, published in February 2013 in JAMA Internal Medicine, tells a striking story. Despite the common belief that baby boomers are a health-aware generation, their health is actually worse than their parents at the same age. These results are despite the fact that baby boomers are able to exploit advances in medical care and reap the benefits of public health campaigns highlighting the dangers of smoking and unhealthy diets.
The study used data from an ongoing national health and nutrition survey to compare the answers of people who were 46 to 64 years old between 1988 and 1994, and the baby boomers who were in the same age range between 2007 and 2010. Baby boomers are less active that their parents and this lack of mobility may be related to reported greater frequencies of obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure.
The study does highlight some upsides of health education and awareness programs. Baby boomers smoke significantly less than their parents. Emphysema is, consequently, on the decline. Life expectancy is up. However, as this study clearly indicates, living longer does not mean leading a healthier life.
Dana King, the study’s lead author, sums things up best, stating, “From somewhat of a public health standpoint we’ve actually had a bad scenario. You live longer, but – those extra years you bought – you’re sick… That’s not a good public health outcome.”
In the end, the study provides a vitally important context for health workers and policy planning to develop future programs for improved health.