High-income seniors enjoy most health gains in US: study

Source:Xinhua Published: 2017/9/20 8:17:48

While seniors are getting healthier, there is a growing gap in health disparities between high-income, educated and whites above age of 65 and the less advantaged seniors, even if all American seniors have access to medical treatment through Medicare.

A study of the University of Michigan (UM) found that overall, the number of older adults reporting good health increased by 14 percent over the 2000-2014 study period.

But, there are clear health disparities in terms of race, education and income after adjusting for changes in age and sex, and the disparities have clearly increased from 2000 to 2014.

Researchers used data from 55,000 older adults in the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey who reported their health twice during the year.

When health trends were broken down by education, race and income, the widest disparities occurred when comparing educational attainment.

Older adults with graduate degrees saw the greatest health gains, with 56 more healthy people per thousand by the end of the study, whereas the diploma group remained flat over time.

Whites were more likely than blacks or Hispanics to report being healthy, and the rate increased over time from 442 per 1,000 to 533 per 1,000.

The rate of good health for blacks and Hispanics remained flat, and there was an uptick in the rate of good health for other ethnicities.

The high-income group reported the most health, and the rate increased steadily from 490 per 1,000 to 603 per 1,000.

Overall, 52 percent of healthy older adults were from high-income families, compared to 31 percent among the not-healthy group.

Matthew Davis, assistant professor at UM School of Nursing and lead author of the study, was not surprised with the good news, He said the findings were consistent with other studies.

"The widening health disparities are particularly striking because older Americans have access to health care," Davis said. "Policies have to extend beyond just getting people access to health care to get at what's driving disparities."

Researchers used to focus on sick people to measure changes in health over time. Davis' group took a different approach, looking instead at healthy people. This approach to looking at the data isn't necessarily more comprehensive, but it's a different measuring stick and provides a new perspective.

The study, titled "Trends and disparities in the number of self-reported healthy older adults in the United States, 2000 to 2014," was published online in JAMA Internal Medicine Monday.

Posted in: AMERICAS

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