Doctor examining older man, listening to his heart with stethoscope

A doctor listening to a man's heartbeat (© bernardbodo - stock.adobe.com)

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Baby boomers are more likely to live with numerous chronic health conditions than earlier generations, according to new research from Penn State and Texas State University.

Study authors warn that the growing rate of multiple chronic health conditions (multimorbidity) among older Americans represents a real health threat to the nation. If it continues, this trend will almost certainly place increased strain on the well-being of older adults, medical infrastructures, and federal insurance systems. On a related note, the amount of Americans over 65 is projected to increase by an astounding 50 percent by 2050.

Researchers note that this isn’t the first study to indicate greater health deterioration among today’s older adults. Moving forward, they would like to see their findings help inform new policies addressing this nationwide issue.

“Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, we were beginning to see declines in life expectancy among middle-aged Americans, a reversal of more than a century long trend,” says Steven Haas, associate professor of sociology and demography at Penn State, in a statement. “Furthermore, the past 30 years has seen population health in the U.S. fall behind that in other high-income countries, and our findings suggest that the U.S. is likely to continue to fall further behind our peers.”

Study authors analyzed data on adults aged 51 years and older originally collected by the Health and Retirement Study, which is a a nationally representative survey of aging Americans. Multimorbidity was measured by looking out for nine chronic conditions: heart disease, hypertension, stroke, diabetes, arthritis, lung disease, cancer (excluding skin cancer), high depressive symptoms, and cognitive impairment. Variations in the specific conditions driving generational differences in multimorbidity were also investigated.

Baby Boomers in worse health than Great Depression-era Americans?

Ultimately, researchers concluded that more recently born generations of older adults are more likely to live with more chronic conditions, and develop those issues earlier in life.

“For example, when comparing those born between 1948-65 – referred to as Baby Boomers — to those born during the later years of the Great Depression (between 1931 and 1941) at similar ages,” Prof. Haas adds, “Baby Boomers exhibited a greater number of chronic health conditions. Baby Boomers also reported two or more chronic health conditions at younger ages.”

Notably, sociodemographic factors also appeared to affect the risk of multimorbidity among all generations. Examples include race and ethnicity, whether the person was born in the U.S., childhood socioeconomic situations, and childhood health.

The most common conditions seen in adults with multimorbidity (across all generations) were arthritis and hypertension. Additionally, some collected evidence suggests both high depressive symptoms and diabetes contributed to the observed generational multimorbidity risk differences.

Study authors say there are multiple potential explanations for these findings.

“Later-born generations have had access to more advanced modern medicine for a greater period of their lives, therefore we may expect them to enjoy better health than those born to prior generations,” concludes Nicholas Bishop, assistant professor at Texas State University. “Though this is partially true, advanced medical treatments may enable individuals to live with multiple chronic conditions that once would have proven fatal, potentially increasing the likelihood that any one person experiences multimorbidity.”

Prof. Bishops adds that today’s older adults have had “greater exposure” to health risk factors such as obesity. Also, health issues are more likely to be diagnosed in older adults nowadays thanks to improvements in medical technology.

The study is published in The Journals of Gerontology.

About John Anderer

Born blue in the face, John has been writing professionally for over a decade and covering the latest scientific research for StudyFinds since 2019. His work has been featured by Business Insider, Eat This Not That!, MSN, Ladders, and Yahoo!

Studies and abstracts can be confusing and awkwardly worded. He prides himself on making such content easy to read, understand, and apply to one’s everyday life.

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103 Comments

  1. Frank says:

    How are we doing on life expectancy?

  2. S Rast says:

    The questions:Agree
    1. Better or improved acess to health care.all of the above

  3. Frank says:

    How’s boomer life expectancy compared to previous cohorts?

  4. TJ says:

    Reading this eating a big mixed greens & chicken breast salad before I rest awhile and go gyming in the early a.m. (back/biceps night). I’m 70 and my doctor wishes he had my blood test numbers. Good health is up to the individual. Who cares how a generation does?

    1. Gaijin says:

      Exactly!

  5. D says:

    Wow. Litanies of misinformed, biased, braindead comments from entitled assholes. Go bury your heads in the sand.

  6. Bob says:

    Born in ’36. Dunno what gen that makes me. But experienced the WWII years during which especially meats and butter were scarce, also predated frozen transported and packaged foods, and for the most part “fast foods”. Always thought that helped if early years are most important. But also greater exposure to “childhood’ diseases — think I had them all except polio. Also Doc came to the house then — had to have some positive bedside effect. Also during the ’50s, “free” state college tuition made it possible to work one’s way through without debt. Included great and teaching focused teaching staff. Presently physically active with no significant health issues or prescription med needs — but recognize luck as a probable factor.

  7. kirche says:

    lol. almost everyone of the previous boomer generation died in their 60’s… all of my grandparents, aunts, uncles died in their 60’s. if you lived into your 70’s you were ancient. boomers live at least a decade longer…

  8. Stephen says:

    You mean the generation that into their 60,s and 70’s not only had to take care of their parents of the Greatest Generation while also supporting their own children into their 40’s suffer more health issues than their parents? Go figure!

  9. Stephen Jensen says:

    You mean the generation that into their 60,s and 70’s not only had to take care of their parents of the Greatest Generation while also supporting their own children into their 40’s suffer more health issues than their parents? Go figure!

  10. New World Order Scum says:

    Worry about being relevant big brother now that you’re all just sheep for the billionaire club. If we don’t die fast enough, they will find away to make it happen sooner.

    A generation of people who went from government being employed by the people to government for the government by the billionaire club.

    Psychopaths and their TV mind control operation don’t care about anyone but themselves and their mansion life.

    Consume and die jabbed slaves the TV will decide who you’re leader is.

  11. Mike says:

    So now it’s not enough to try and divide by race, sex, gender, religion, etc, etc. Now we have bone heads wanting to blame things on age difference, under the guise of named generations as if that is actually a legitimate complaint. The ignorance of some people is mind blowing. It actually does nothing more than confirm that ignorant people will look to blame anything or anyone for their own failings in life.

  12. Steve says:

    You all quickly starting bitching about the generations and missed the whole point of the data.

    Keep in mind WW2 generation did not go to the dr’s when their arthritis wass flairing, they didnt go in to see the Dr’s for a blood sugar isssues.

    There was a large opercent of undiagnosed and untreated issues that the older gen didnt whine about.

    Dont rush it Gen X you will understand one day, what aging is like.

  13. Liz says:

    Ttis should surprise NO ONE! The food industry aka Big Farma and the other Big Pharma and all the other Fat Cats have done this by design. They thrive and profit from sickness and disease.
    Our chemically fertilized, frankenfood has NO nutrition left in it, nor does the soil its grown in, like it did when I was a kid.
    Our body needs the right fuel so grow your own or buy organic. Those are your options.
    Meat today is LOADED with antibiotics fed constantly to livestock. No wonder many illnesses are antibiotic resistant!
    America has become the Capital of Capitalism on steroids! Its all about making big bucks off of our backs. Legislators and the powers that be have destroyed this country from coast to coast.

  14. Dave says:

    Funny, but I was born in ’55 and my generation paid attention to the warnings in Silent Spring. Ours was the back-to-earth generation focused on organic gardening and recycling. Protests against the Vietnam War and nuclear proliferation, among other worthy causes. Every generation blames those who have come before. Most of the people I know are not capitalist pigs raping the earth. Unfortunately, about half are now caught in a wave of nostalgia, remembering the bucolic scenes of childhood, and they fail to understand that the reactionary party and orange asshat they are worshipping are the ones that brought us to this existential point in time with their belief that capitalism is the golden calf we must all bow to. Meanwhile, our educational system was the best in the world, and it’s now at the bottom for industrialized countries. The half that supports the reactionary party are the least educated of the bunch, believing in “alternate facts.” That half has now produced two generations of clones. That’s where Steve should focus his attention. My generation is dying off, and I guarantee that the ones coming after us are even more entitled and will produce fewer solutions to problems, including in the area of healthcare.

  15. John says:

    Lots of ridiculous generalizations on here. When people as a society band together to reject the idea of eating at places like McDonald’s and drinking high-fructose corn syrup by the quart until their livers and hearts fail, we might be getting somewhere. I see plenty of fat kids waddling around all over the place; they’re just too young to be dying from it yet. The Greatest Generation grew up on Victory Gardens and carried on their own traditions of independence because they were conditioned to do so through the Great Depression and WWII. So, comparing any future generations with them doesn’t make a lot of sense. Boomers were the first generation that grew up on Coke and McDonald’s made from lowest-bidder corporate ingredients, rather unquestioningly, so this is what results.

    The following generations will have these same medical problems or worse if they don’t do something drastic like nonchalantly boycott them into obscurity like my generation did with MySpace (junk food of a different variety). The internet and smartphones (following it’s predecessor, the television) make it unlikely that people will ever bond the way they did in WWII. The brainwashing is much better now, making everyone think that they’re experts on everything under the sun after a casual glance, but still gravitating to the path of least resistance when it comes to personal choices, essentially using our human nature against us It’s the ultimate divide and conquer strategy by corporate America and we’re all pretty much doomed to completely become traded commodities (you could argue that we already are) unless we wake up and change things together.

  16. Moi says:

    One thing Boomers did not do was blame their parents for the world’s problems. We recognized our parents did what they felt was right at the time, even though other problems ensued. It is utterly childish to blame the older generation for everything.

    I worked my tail off at boring jobs, drove an old car, scrimped and saved like mad to buy a home. I invested very carefully, not taking risks because I couldn’t afford them. No flying around the world to work wherever I want, no professional interior decorator for my apt, no lattes every day, no buying a home until I could afford it, no manis or pedis, no hair dye (that stuff us expensive and terrible for the environment), no extensive salon visits, no home delivery of groceries…

    Millennials, since you’re so superior, please quite whining and solve all the world’s problems now, or your kids will blame you.

  17. Sensible person says:

    Every article that starts with some sweeping generalization if an entire group of people should be ignored. The Nuclear bomb was invented in the 1940s. We Boomers did not blame an entire generation but instead tried, during the 60s, to change peoples’’ Attitudes towards war and we succeeded to some extent.

    Grow up! The world is a messy place. You need to learn to stop whining and deal with it.

    So, back to the article. It leaves out a lot of information, which has been pointed out. We are healthier than our parents. We live longer, have straighter backs in old age, exercise more, the said no to the canned food. The canned food and wonder bread was a result if years of wars, food shortages, etc. We were lucky that we had the luxury to eat better. You are lucky too, but you stay that way with your attitude.

  18. Bridget Reber says:

    I’ll never understand why Millennials hate Boomers so much. You all think we destroyed the world for you? How ridiculous!! Most of us are your parents. How can you criticize what we couldn’t control. We were kids once. We tried our best but we had no control of industry, government, or greedy corporations. We fought battles too. We did our best to fight for civil rights, women’s rights, and the end of a heinous world. We are products of the world we knew growing up. Your jealousy and hostility is palpable and it’s heartbreaking. Don’t worry Millennials. One day you’ll be the target of wrath from a younger generation, regardless if you have children. I suppose it’s the way of the world but the hate in this country has reached a crisis level. I can only speak for myself and I’m one of the younger boomers but my parents didn’t even want to talk or get to know me until my mid-20’s. It’s not that they didn’t care, it’s just they believed children were to be seen and not heard. I think most of us boomers, but again I can only speak for myself, truly loved and wanted close relationships with their children. You all think we had it all but that’s ridiculous. None of us ever has it all. Was college cheaper? Sure but salaries and wages were too. I will fight, donate, and stand up for all things wrong in this world. I won’t get everything. None of us do but in this world of hate and craziness, on the verge of losing so much, the last thing we need is this continual bickering and hatred between generations.

    1. Isobel stepney says:

      Hi bridget thanks for what your saying took me ahes too find something good about us i cant understand all this hate about us i was born i in 1956 we had nothing but sunday clothes for church school uniform and playing out clothes , 6 of us all worked hard too better liveds though missed a bit my parents both worked hard too give us a better life i think the problem is we gave our children the milleniums too much wanted them too have what we didnt and know its never enouh god bless you take care in this selfish world