NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Americans Living Longer, But With Chronic Ills

May 21, 2002

Americans over 50 are living longer, but are more likely to be overweight, endure multiple chronic health conditions and depend more on prescription drugs, a study by AARP has found.

The report sheds more light on the medical conditions of the often-overlooked 50-64 age group -- old enough to have significant medical needs, but too young to qualify for Medicare.

  • Of the 41 million Americans in that age group in 1999, 5.6 million, or 14 percent, were uninsured.
  • Some 27 percent of the group were obese -- up from 14 percent in 1982.
  • Obesity is often a forerunner of such conditions as diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease as the group ages.
  • Health-care expenditures among this 50-64 age group climbed on average from $2,009 in 1977 to $2,930 in 1996.

People reaching age 50 today can expect to live another 30 years on average. Heart disease and cancer have remained among the leading causes of death among people 50 and older for the last two decades.

Officials at AARP -- which previously was known as the American Association of Retired Persons -- say one of the purposes of the report is to increase public funding to cover the uninsured, prescription drugs and long-term care of the elderly.

Source: Melody Simmons, "U.S. Adults Live Longer -- With Chronic Illnesses, Less Coverage," Washington Post, May 21, 2002.


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