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Baby Boomers were in better physical shape when they were between 40 and 50 years of age than Gen X of the same age bracket are today, a new study has revealed.
The study was published in the Journal of Population Studies and was carried out across the Atlantic in England. It looked at 135,000 people across several generations living in the country and found, on average, Gen X to be in worse shape than Baby Boomers were at their age.
Baby Boomers Were Less Likely to Be Overweight in Their 40s
For instance, almost 80 percent of 44-year-old Gen X men born in 1970 were predicted to be overweight, compared to 71 percent of 44-year-old Baby Boomer men born in 1958.
The study also found that 16 percent of 56-year-old Baby Boomer men born in 1958 were predicted to have high blood sugar, compared to less than 10 percent of 56-year-olds born in 1946.
George Ploubidis, one of the researchers involved in the study and a professor of population health and statistics at University College London (UCL), said the research suggests that an increase in life expectancy leads to an increase in healthy lifespan has been bucked.
“Earlier in the 20th century, a rise in life expectancy went hand in hand with an increase in healthy lifespan – younger generations were living longer, healthier lives. It appears that, for those generations born between 1945 and 1980, this trend has stalled. Those born later are expected to live longer on average, but with more years of ill health,” Ploubidis said.
Over half of the years of extra life expectancy gained by both men and women who were 25 years old between 1993 and 2003 are expected to be spent in ill health, researchers suggested.
Meanwhile, Stephen Jivraj, lead author of the study and associate professor in quantitative social science in UCL’s department of epidemiology and public health, said the study’s findings are “quite remarkable.”
“The additional life expectancy – we expected the proportion spent in good health to remain constant. We’re actually seeing the proportion of life spent in poor health become even greater, which is quite remarkable,” he said.
Researchers didn’t focus on determining why exactly people are now likely to spend a greater period of their life in poor health. However, Jivraj said it’s most likely due to poor diet and a reduction in physical exercise. He added that worsening social inequality over the past several decades might also be a factor.
Bad News For Public Finances
The trend of people in the developed world living longer has long been documented – and this in itself puts strain on public finances and healthcare systems, as seniors are set to spend more time in retirement (even after increases in the retirement age have been taken into account) relying on public finances to get by in some cases and also requiring more medical attention.
And now, the revelation that some of the coming generations are set to spend more of their life in ill health than older generations, such as Baby Boomers, spells yet more bad news for public finances and healthcare systems.
This is because being unfit or overweight is a risk factor for countless diseases that require expensive treatment and medical attention, which in turn puts added pressure on healthcare and pushes healthcare spending up.
“It’s worry for population health and worrying for public health finances,” Jivraj said, commenting on the study’s findings.
Continuing, he said the study shows that the overall trend is towards an increasing proportion of years in poor health, and some health conditions are beginning at an earlier age in many people outside of the Boomer generation.
“This has worrying implications for healthcare services, which already face increased demand because of an aging population,” Jivraj added.