Good News About Longer Healthspans
A person born today can be expected to live significantly longer than previous generations. But with so many people living longer, there’s been concern that some of the debilitating diseases and conditions of old age are becoming more common. Most of us would welcome the chance to live longer, but we’d certainly prefer to do so in relatively good health. There’s not much point to living longer, if you’re in pain or unable to get around. Instead of lifespan, experts refer to “healthspan;” time spent enjoying good health.
Now there’s good news. A new study has concluded that people are living longer now, and they’re also staying healthier longer, compared to previous generations. In a press release, investigator David Cutler said: “Effectively, the period of time in which we're in poor health is being compressed until just before the end of life. So where we used to see people who are very, very sick for the final six or seven years of their life, that's now far less common. People are living to older ages and we are adding healthy years, not debilitated ones.”
By tapping into data from the Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey, which has followed 90,000 people for a decade, Cutler and colleagues were able to paint a picture of the end of life in the modern age. Other than the last year or two before death, most survey participants enjoyed surprisingly good quality of life in the golden years. Previous generations often suffered from long, gradual declines in mobility, functionality and quality of life before passing away. Cutler suspects improvements in medical care, patient awareness and healthcare access explain some of the favorable changes, but it’s not entirely clear why people are staying so much healthier, longer.
Harvard University (2013, July 29). Living longer, living healthier: People are remaining healthier later in life. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 29, 2013, from http://www.sciencedaily.com /releases/2013/07/130729083352.htm