As each generation gets older they like to think that they are healthier than the previous generation, however, the baby boomers are now unable to confidently make this claim.

The new findings were published in JAMA Internal Medicine, in a study conducted by a group of researchers from the West Virginia University School of Medicine.

The study revealed that a portion of the baby boomer generation, specifically the 78 million Americans who were born in the post-war baby boom from 1946 to 1964, were less healthy than most of their parents.

As of 2010, the baby boomers made up 26.1 percent of the U.S. population. Historically, the baby boomer population has been labeled the “healthiest generation”, due to their long life expectancy and their ability to take advantage of the newest medical care and public health campaigns.

However this label may no longer apply because studies are now showing that baby boomers have more elevated levels of certain conditions than the previous generation, including:

Researchers led by Dr. Dana King, a professor in family medicine at West Virginia University School of Medicine, examined data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). NHANES is a picture of health measures and behaviors administered by the U.S. government.

The investigators analyzed baby boomers aged 46 to 64 years between 2007 and 2010, as well as Americans with similar ages in 1988 to 1994.

In total, just 13 percent of baby boomers gaged their health as “excellent”, while close to three times as many – 32 percent of those in the preceding generation – rated themselves in excellent health.

Key findings the authors pointed out:

  • 7 percent of baby boomers used a cane or other device to help them walk, compared to 3 percent in the previous generation.
  • 13 percent of baby boomers have a type of limitation in their ability to complete daily tasks – like going up steps or mowing the lawn – compared with 8.8 percent of those in the previous generation.

The authors noted:

“Despite their longer life expectancy over previous generations, U.S. baby boomers have higher rates of chronic disease, more disability and lower self-rated health than members of the previous generation at the same age. On a positive note, baby boomers are less likely to smoke cigarettes and experience lower rates of emphysema and myocardial infarction than the previous generation.”

An example of this is hypertension, and the potential cardiovascular damage that can come from the condition. The report stated that 35 percent of the previous generation had high blood pressure, while 75 percent of baby boomers do.

Public health campaigns and better therapies also appear not to be achieving their goals in improving disease rates. One possible cause of this may be obesity. The U.S. population is more obese than ever before, which can result in harmful medical complications.

King suggests that the gap between what we perceive to be the “longest lived” and the reality of the harm obesity is having on their health is significant and should be quantified.

A previous study completed in 2011 established that the baby boomer population is the most obese group in the U.S. About 36 percent of baby boomers are obese, while only 25 percent of the populations preceding them and following them are obese.

King concludes, “Medication use has definitely increased, so we are propping ourselves up on our canes and our medicines. We are becoming over dependent on medications and surgical solutions rather than creating our own good health.”

Written by Kelly Fitzgerald