A paradox in longevity: More years with more sickness for American adults

Illness and disease are common with age, but new research suggests that U.S. adults are now spending more time in their life sick than well, The Wall Street Journal reported Jan. 17.

This is due in part to rapid medical advancements, treatments and technology that have made complicated and even deadly conditions livable and perpetually chronic. 

"The period of life spent not healthy is getting larger and larger and the implications of that are enormous,” John Rowe, MD, a professor of health policy and aging at Columbia University, told the Journal, adding that "70 is the new 80."

Data shows that although life expectancy is increasing, the length of the "healthspan" in which a person can do activities they enjoy pain and illness free has fallen. Now, U.S. adults can expect to spend 64.4 years in decent health instead of 64.8 — while it may seem marginal, the gap continues to grow, experts say. The longer individuals live, the more opportunity they have to develop illnesses and chronic conditions as well.

"We are living longer and better, even if the length of life with diseases increased. It’s better on average," Eileen Crimmins, PhD, a professor of gerontology at the University of Southern California, told the Journal.

Another contributing factor is rising rates of substance abuse and increasing rates of diabetes and cancer diagnoses in younger patients, too, experts say. 

But overall, it is a call to action for bolstering preventative care services and continuing researching therapies and treatments to improve quality of life for those with chronic conditions, physicians told the Journal

"We don't want to live to 100 if the last 20 years of that is in a nursing home or dealing with dementia or some other chronic disease," Zaldy Tan, MD director of the Memory and Aging Program at Cedars-Sinai Health System in Los Angeles, told the Journal

Copyright © 2024 Becker's Healthcare. All Rights Reserved. Privacy Policy. Cookie Policy. Linking and Reprinting Policy.


Featured Whitepapers

Featured Webinars