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The nation's 78 million baby boomers may be living longer than their parents, but a new study finds that boomers have worse health than the previous generation.
Researchers from the West Virginia University School of Medicine and the Medical University of South Carolina wondered if those born between 1946 and 1964 were living longer only because of advances in medicine, not because they were really healthier than prior generations.
To find out, the researchers compared the boomers' and an earlier generations' answers to a large federal survey called the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Boomers ages 46 through 64 answered the survey between 2007 and 2010. Their elders answered it between 1988 and 1994, when they were in the same age span, reports the Los Angeles Times.
The good news: Boomers are much less likely to smoke, have emphysema or get heart attacks, as compared with their parents' generation.
But there's also a lot of bad news:
- Boomers have more diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity than the previous generation.
- About 74 percent of boomers have high cholesterol, compared with just 34 percent of their elders.
- Double the percentage of boomers are disabled and need a cane or walker to get around, and even more have problems bad enough to keep them from working. "The proportion of people who are disabled increased substantially," lead researcher Dana E. King, M.D., of the West Virginia University School of Medicine, told NPR.
- More than half of boomers said they got no physical activity, compared with just 17 percent of the older group at the same age. "That's an astonishing change in just one generation," King said.
- Only about 13 percent of boomers rated their own health as "excellent," compared with 32 percent of those in the older group.
As King pointed out, the impact on health care costs in the next decade "is astounding," if boomers are already "in much worse condition than their forefathers."
But don't despair, he added. Research has shown that even in our 50s and 60s, we can turn back the clock with exercise. Bottom line, boomers: Get off your duffs.
Photo: Madhan Karthikeyan /flickr