Two new research studies reveal that baby boomers' health is suffering - with more chronic and age-related disease than their parents had, at the same age. What's worse, most boomers seem not to know it.
A research letter published this week in The Journal of the American Medical Association (Internal Medicine) examined data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) on baby boomers (collected between 2007-2010), and on the previous generation (1988-1994). Subjects were between the ages of 46 and 64 in both groups, with the average in each about 54 years of age. The findings? More obesity, more hypertension, more diabetes, more stress and anxiety, and far less exercise among boomers than was true of the generation before. Since NHANES -- a national investigation into the health and nutrition of Americans launched in the early 1960s -- is based not only on surveys and questionnaires, but physical exams as well, the two population groups can be accurately compared.
North of the border, the Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation released a study this week with similar results. Canadian boomers are less active, eat fewer fruits and vegetables than the national guidelines recommend, and a full 30% say they are "often or always" stressed. Curiously, 80% of the subjects insist their doctors would rate them as healthy.
The good news is, behavior change as late as your 50s, or 60s, can still improve your health in measurable and significant ways, according to the lead author of the JAMA report. Dana King, chair of the Family Medicine department of the Western Virginia University School of Medicine, says past research shows it's never too late to turn bad habits around.
"We've shown that changing behaviors in this same age group can make a tremendous difference in as little as four years," he reports. "Any improvements in the area of diet, regular physical activity, or watching your weight would make a big difference."
2013 Report on the Health of Canadians. Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation Research Paper. Accessed February 6, 2013.
Dana E King, Eric Matheson, Svetlana Chirina, Anoop Shankar, Jordan Browman-Fulks. "Overall Health Status of Baby Boomers Appears Lower Than Previous Generation." JAMA Intern Med Published online February 4, 2013.