According to a new study, older persons are more likely than previous generations to have a higher number of chronic health disorders.
The study was published in ‘The Journals of Gerontology.’ The rising prevalence of several chronic health disorders, known as multimorbidity, poses a significant danger to the health of ageing populations. This may put further burden on the well-being of older persons, as well as medical and federal insurance systems; adults over the age of 65 are expected to increase by more than 50% by 2050.
According to Steven Haas, associate professor of sociology and demography at Penn State, the findings are consistent with other recent study indicating that the health of more recent generations in the United States is poorer than that of their forefathers in a variety of ways.
“Even before the COVID-19 epidemic, we were seeing falls in middle-aged Americans’ life expectancy, reversing a more than century-long trend,” Haas said.
“Furthermore, over the last 30 years, population health in the United States has lagged behind that of other high-income nations, and our data show that the United States is likely to slip farther behind its peers,” he said.
The researchers used data from the Health and Retirement Study, a nationally representative survey of Americans aged 51 and older, for the study. The research counted nine chronic illnesses to determine multimorbidity: heart disease, hypertension, stroke, diabetes, arthritis, lung disease, cancer (excluding skin cancer), high depressive symptoms, and cognitive impairment. The researchers also looked at the particular variables that cause generational inequalities in multimorbidity.
They discovered that younger generations of older persons are more likely to report a bigger number of chronic diseases and to have those conditions manifest earlier in life.
“For example, when comparing individuals born between 1948 and 1965 – known as Baby Boomers – to those born in the later years of the Great Depression (between 1931 and 1941) at comparable ages,” Haas added.
“Baby Boomers have a higher prevalence of chronic health issues. Baby Boomers also reported having two or more chronic health disorders when they were younger “He continued.
The researchers also discovered that sociodemographic characteristics such as race and ethnicity, birthplace in the United States, early socioeconomic conditions, and childhood health increased the likelihood of multimorbidity across all generations. Among people with multimorbidity, arthritis and hypertension were the most frequent conditions across all generations, and there was evidence that elevated depressive symptoms and diabetes contributed to the observed generational disparities in multimorbidity.
According to Nicholas Bishop, an associate professor at Texas State University, the findings might have several causes.
“Because later-born generations have had access to more improved contemporary treatment for a longer period of their life, we may anticipate them to have better health than those born to previous generations,” Bishop said.
“Though this is somewhat true,” he adds, “new medical therapies may enable persons to live with numerous chronic illnesses that were formerly deadly, thereby increasing the possibility that any one person has multimorbidity.”
He also mentioned that older persons in more recent generations have been exposed to additional health risk factors, such as obesity, which raises the probability of developing chronic illness.
Medical breakthroughs have also been followed by improved illness surveillance and quantification, resulting in the discovery of previously undetected chronic disorders.
Future study might look for causes for these generational disparities in multimorbidity, according to the researchers.