Blog | Thursday, March 7, 2013

Baby boomers' poor health will haunt them as they age

The baby boomers are strictly identified as being born between 1946 and 1964. The boom lasted 19 years and delivered 76 million total births. "Leading Edge" boomers were between 1946 and 1955. They were the generation that were the wealthiest, most active, and most physically fit generation that had ever lived. They were special and expected to have better lives than their parents.

Well, those leading edge boomers are now middle age and getting AARP bulletins. And a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association reveals their overall health status was lower than prior generations, with only 13.2% reporting "excellent" health compared with 32% of individuals in the previous generation (P less than .001). To really paint the picture, researchers reported more than twice as many baby boomers used walking assist devices (6.9% vs 3.3%), more were limited in their work by disability (13.8% vs 10.1%), and 13.5% vs 8.8% were coping with some type of functional limitation.

But wait ... that's not all.

In addition, more baby boomers are obese compared with the previous generation (38.7% vs 29.4%), and they reported exercising significantly less often (35.0% vs 49.9% exercised more than 12 times per month). In fact, more than half the baby boomer respondents said they engaged in no regular physical activity (52.2% vs 17.4%).

How can this be? The baby boomers have the benefit of great scientific research, all the health information in the world available on the internet and they are fat and sedentary?

These same baby boomers make up 26.1% of the U.S. population. That is a lot of unhealthy people.

So if we piece this study together it means that these baby boomers may live a few years longer than prior generations but they are more likely to suffer chronic illness and be unable to care for themselves.

As a baby boomer myself, I find this study to be alarming and depressing at the same time. It's not too late for boomers to save themselves and save their children from the burden of caring for them. They can start with learning the toxic effects of sugar and pre-packaged foods. Instead of going to Wal-Mart and buying more stuff we don't need, how about starting a rooftop garden or a walking group with friends. Buy a pedometer and a blood pressure monitor and take charge of your health.

I know this sounds preachy but this is just plain "messed-up" (as my 17 year old would say). Baby boomers, save yourselves! I don't want to watch everyone in an electric cart as I get older and I know there won't be enough doctors to take care of all of the chronic disease.

This post originally appeared at Everything Health. Toni Brayer, MD, FACP, is an ACP Internist editorial board member who blogs at EverythingHealth, designed to address the rapid changes in science, medicine, health and healing in the 21st Century.