It would be nice if humanity were on some sort of clear upward health trajectory: The more we know about nutrition and exercise and the more advanced medicine we have access to, the healthier everyone gets. Alas, that is not the case — especially when it comes to seniors, according to a new report from the United Health Foundation.
Summing up the findings in NPR, Alison Kodjak writes:
The report looks at the current health status of people ages 50 to 64 and compares them to the same ages in 1999.
The upshot? There will be about 55 percent more senior citizens who have diabetes than there are today, and about 25 percent more who are obese. Overall, the report says that the next generation of seniors will be 9 percent less likely to say they have good or excellent overall health.
That’s bad news for baby boomers. Health care costs for people with diabetes are about 2.5 times higher than for those without, according to the study.
(It should be noted that the foundation which conducted this report is connected to “UnitedHealthcare Retiree Solutions, which sells Medicare Advantage plans,” as NPR puts it.)
It seems as though easy access to unhealthy foods is erasing, if not reversing, all sorts of the other health gains one would expect to see over time. That’s not the only factor, of course: As a blockbuster Anne Case/Angus Deaton study revealed last year, middle-aged white people, particularly those with less education, are dealing with alarming levels of chronic pain, drug and alcohol use, and overall higher rates of mortality — much of which is probably sparked or exacerbated by economic issues.
If you follow all this down the road to its sad, natural conclusion, it’s likely that America’s end-of-life care problem — phrased bluntly, we spend huge amounts of money to extend older people’s lives slightly just so they can have agonizing deaths in hospitals rather than less painful and traumatizing (for them and their relatives) ones at home — is only going to get worse as well.
Now, the United Health Foundation report isn’t all bad — it highlights the extent to which smoking has plummeted, for example. But there’s no way around it: The overall prognostication for the aging population in the U.S. is pretty dire at the moment.