As Americans in their 50s move toward retirement age, many are in worse overall health than their peers in prior generations, researchers warn.
"We found that younger cohorts are facing more burdensome health issues, even as they have to wait until an older age to retire, so they will have to do so in poorer health," said study author Robert Schoeni. He's an economist and demographer at the University of Michigan.
Americans born in 1960 or later must wait until age 67 to collect their full Social Security benefit. People born before that were able to collect sooner.
Schoeni and his colleagues analyzed data collected over decades by the U.S. National Institute on Aging and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
They found that a higher percentage of Americans now in their 50s rated their own health as just fair or poor, compared with what older Americans said about their own health at a similar age.
Also, middle-aged Americans today say they suffer from a higher rate of memory and thinking problems, versus prior generations of 50-year-olds.
Moreover, a higher proportion of the later-born groups was limited in the ability to perform a basic daily living task, such as shopping for groceries, taking medications or getting out of bed.
However, physical function (the ability to climb stairs without resting, lifting 10 pounds, etc.) did not appear to differ significantly across generations.
The researchers said the findings may have implications if legislators consider whether or not to shift the official age of full Social Security retirement to a later starting point.
The report appears in the October issue of the journal Health Affairs.
For tips on healthy living in middle age and beyond, see the U.S. National Institute on Aging.
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