I’m not alone when I say that I would like to live long enough to see my grandchildren become young adults, but only if I am in good health. There are many in my generation that feel the same way. Much has been written about the potential longevity of the baby boomer generation and the effects it will have on entitlement programs like social security and Medicare. However, recent studies present a different picture. According to a University of Illinois study baby boomers will not live longer than their parents have despite the healthcare improvements, new drugs and the long 20th century experience of ever-rising life expectations; the culprit – factors like elevated rates of obesity, cancer and suicide.
Another study by Rice University claims that it would be a mistake to project longevity gains of the last century throughout this one. Health status of the baby boom versus the preceding generation reveals that they are in worse shape. There is a higher propensity to suicide particularly for those in their 40’s, a time when those rates typically head down. And then there is the ‘Big C’. The post war generation has a higher rate of cancer at younger ages than the previous generation. Women of this generation are the heaviest smoking cohort in U.S. history and they are now suffering its effects.
Obesity among boomers is linked to rising disability and serious health problems like diabetes and heart disease. However, the true impact on longevity that obesity has cannot be seen until we get older. Socioeconomic factors will also significantly impact longevity. It is a well-known fact that rich people live longer than poor people do. We know that the gap between rich and poor keeps widening in this country and that the impoverishment of individuals keeps creeping up. The most at risk, of course, are Latinos and Blacks who swell the ranks of those living under the poverty level. They will see drastic declines in health status over the years.
The moral of the story is that in order to live longer we must have been blessed with good genes and the absence of major health problems, a socioeconomic position that allowed us to have access to preventive healthcare and live healthier lives, otherwise it makes no sense to live forever.