Issue: May 2013
February 19, 2013
3 min read

Baby boomers show high rate of chronic disease

Issue: May 2013
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Aging baby boomers are living longer but have higher rates of chronic disease, more disability and lower self-rated health compared with the previous generation, investigators reported in a research letter in JAMA Internal Medicine.

However, baby boomers are less likely to smoke cigarettes and have lower rates of emphysema and MI vs. the previous generation at the same age.

Using National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey data, researchers compared health status, functional and work disability, and chronic disease presence in the 1988-1994 cohort (previous generation) and 2007-2010 cohort (baby boomers). The focus was on respondents aged 46 to 64 years during either period.

Cohort demographics were similar, except for racial/ethnic proportions. There was a greater proportion of non-Hispanic blacks (11.3% vs. 9.4%) and Hispanics (9.8% vs. 3.7%) in the current baby boomers compared with the previous generation (P<.001).

Overall, 13.2% of baby boomers reported “excellent” health compared with 32% of the previous generation (P<.001). Compared with the previous generation, baby boomers were more likely to have hypertension (43% vs. 36.4%; P<.001), take hypertensive medication (35.4% vs. 23.2%; P<.001), have diabetes (15.5% vs. 12%; P=.003), take diabetes medication (11.3% vs. 6.2%; P<.001), have hypercholesterolemia (73.5% vs. 33.8%; P<.001) and take hypercholesterolemia medication (25.9% vs. 1.5%; P<.001).

The researchers found a slight but nonsignificant trend toward higher prevalence of cancer in baby boomers and a decrease in the frequency of emphysema and MI.

In other results, compared with the previous generation, baby boomers were more likely to be obese, use a walking assist device and have functional limitation and less likely to participate in regular exercise and smoke.

“Given the link between positive, healthy lifestyles and subsequent health in this age group, the present study demonstrates a clear need for policies that expand efforts at prevention and healthy lifestyle promotion in the baby boomer generation,” Dana E. King, MD, MS, professor and chair of the department of family medicine, West Virginia University School of Medicine, and colleagues wrote in the research letter.

For more information:

King DE. JAMA Intern Med. 2013;doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.2006.

Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.