A study published in JAMA Internal Medicine reports that a portion of the baby boomer generation, specifically the 78 million Americans who were born in the post-war baby boom from 1946 to 1964, were less healthy than most of their parents.
Historically, the baby boomer population has been labeled the “healthiest generation”, due to their long life expectancy and their ability to take advantage of the newest medical care and public health campaigns.
However, this label may no longer apply because studies are now showing that baby boomers have more elevated levels of certain conditions than the previous generation, including obesity, high cholesterol, diabetes and hypertension. For example, 35 percent of the previous generation had high blood pressure, while 75 percent of baby boomers do.
Why aren’t public health campaigns and access to better medical care not achieving the goals of improving disease rates? Obesity may be to blame. A previous study completed in 2011 established that the baby boomer population is the most obese group in the U.S. About 36 percent of baby boomers are obese, while only 25 percent of the population preceding them are obese.
Key Findings of the Study
- Just 13 percent of baby boomers rated their health as “excellent”, while close to three times as many – 32 percent of those in the preceding generation – rated themselves in excellent health.
- 7 percent of baby boomers used a cane or other device to help them walk, compared to 3 percent in the previous generation.
- 13 percent of baby boomers have a type of limitation in their ability to complete daily tasks – like going up steps or mowing the lawn – compared with 8.8 percent of those in the previous generation.
- Baby boomers are less likely to smoke cigarettes and experience lower rates of emphysema and myocardial infarction than the previous generation.
The study was led by Dr. Dana King, a professor in family medicine at West Virginia University School of Medicine, using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES).
“Medication use has definitely increased, so we are propping ourselves up on our canes and our medicines, Dr. King stated. “We are becoming over dependent on medications and surgical solutions rather than creating our own good health.”