Americans have an insatiable desire for health information as reflected in Pew Internet Center’s findings. The experts there say that 80 percent of us use the Internet to search for health information and that it’s the third most popular online pursuit. We want to know more so we can do more to stay healthy, and we look for symptom and treatment information first. So how’re we doing?
Don’t know if you saw this research last December, but increased life expectancy in the United States has not been accompanied by more years of perfect health, according to a story in the Journal of Gerontology. If you’re 20 years old today, (and if you’re reading this baby boomer blog, you’re probably not!) you’ll live one less healthy year over your lifespan than a 20-year-old a decade ago, even though life expectancy has grown.
Disease morbidity increasing
News from the University of Southern California (USC) explained that from 1970 to 2005, the probability of a 65-year-old surviving to age 85 doubled, from about a 20 percent chance to a 40 percent chance. The supposition was that forces allowing people to live longer, including better health behaviors and medical advances, would also delay the onset of disease and allow people to spend fewer years of their lives with debilitating illness. Average “morbidity,” or the period of life spent with serious disease or loss of functional mobility, has actually increased in the last few decades.
I am not looking forward to that wheelchair, are you? (That’s why here, we’re dedicated to helping you build a better boomer.)
We spend fewer years of our lives without disease, even though we live longer, the study authors said. They determined that a male 20-year-old today can expect to spend 5.8 years over the rest of his life without basic mobility, compared to 3.8 years a decade ago—an additional two years unable to walk up ten steps or sit for two hours. A female 20-year-old can expect 9.8 years without mobility, compared to 7.3 years a decade ago.
Women: Expect nearly a decade without mobility
Why are we women so chosen? We already know that women live longer than men—between five and ten years. The USC study authors note that we’re not doing so well in eliminating or delaying disease, but we are preventing death from diseases.
I thought Laura Blue had a good take on this in a 2008 article in TIME. She writes: “It’s not a case where the older you get, the sicker you get. It’s very much the case that the older you get, the healthier you’ve been.”
The underlying message here is that while we’re living (longer) with chronic conditions, we’re going to need help from family, friends and the government. The current turbulent state of health care doesn’t provide much comfort to me: How about you?
“We do not appear to be moving to a world where we die without experiencing significant periods of disease, functioning loss, and disability,” said USC’s Eileen Crimmins, AARP chair in gerontology.
Another reason to make today, and tomorrow, a really great day…It’s up to us.