These Charts Show the Baby Boomers’ Coming Health Crisis

American Baby Boomers are more stressed, less healthy and have slightly less health care coverage than people in the same age group did a decade ago, according to data from a new report released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Exacerbating the potential for a crisis, those aged 55 to 64—the core of the Boomers—are living longer than their predecessors did 10 years ago. The charts below show that though Boomers are living longer, but aren’t necessarily living healthier lives.

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For every 100,000 adults aged 55-64, there were 77 fewer deaths than the same age group 10 years ago. That’s an 8% decrease—despite increases in chronic conditions and stress.

While heart disease and cancer remain the two leading causes of death, they both claimed far fewer lives among adults aged 55-64 than 10 years ago. Chronic restrictive lung disease (CRLD) and diabetes saw smaller declines. Of the top five causes of death for Boomers, unintentional injury was the only to rise since 2003.

The seeming paradox of a decrease in the number of deaths and the worsening of health is explained in part by Americans’ increased use of prescription drugs. Adults aged 55-64 are taking more drugs than ever before, with a 29% spike in the use of anti-diabetic pills and a 54% increase in cholesterol-lowering drugs.

The trend toward prolonged treatment of chronic conditions signals how health-care workers and policymakers must prepare, in the coming years, for the largest-ever cohort to enroll in Medicare over the next ten years.

Methodology

Data is from the CDC special feature on adults aged 55-64, of the 2014 Health Report.

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