Skip to main content

Americans Now Living Longer - But With Disability or Health Issues

  • Published: 2016-04-15 (Revised/Updated 2016-05-07) : University of Southern California (usc.edu).
  • Synopsis: Study reveals increased longevity not necessarily indicative of good health, as most age groups live longer with disability or health problems

Main Document

Quote: "Clearly, there is a need to maintain health and reduce disability at younger ages to have meaningful compression of morbidity across the age range, Crimmins said."

The USC-led study findings challenge assumptions that increased longevity is a sign of good health...

Americans are living longer but in poorer health, according to a new study.

The USC-led study examined life expectancy trends and disability rates in a 40-year period, from 1970 to 2010. The analysis of U.S. vital statistics found that the average total lifespan increased for men and women in those 40 years, but so did the proportion of time spent living with a disability.

The study found increased longevity is not necessarily indicative of good health. Most age groups live longer with a disability or other health problem.

"We could be increasing the length of poor quality life more than good-quality life," lead author Eileen Crimmins, USC University Professor and AARP Professor of Gerontology at the USC Davis School of Gerontology. "There are a number of indications that the Baby Boomer generation that is now reaching old age is not seeing improvements in health similar to the older groups that went before them." Only for people aged 65 and older was there a "compression of morbidity" -- a reduction in the proportion of years spent with disability.

The findings have significant implications for policymaking, such as proposals to raise the retirement age for Social Security and Medicare eligibility.

"Clearly, there is a need to maintain health and reduce disability at younger ages to have meaningful compression of morbidity across the age range," Crimmins said. "The trends for the last 40 years do not support projections and policies that are based on assumptions of a reduced length of disabled life."

Findings

The average lifespan for men increased by 9.2 years to 76.2 years, the researchers found. The number of years they live with a disability increased by 4.7 years while the number of years spent disability-free increased by 4.5 years.

For women, the average lifespan increased by 6.4 years to 81 years. The number of years that women spend with a disability increased by 3.6 years, exceeding the increase in women's disability-free life (2.7 years).

"The smaller increase in healthy life than in total life for women was surprising and another indication that American women have not done as well as American men in terms of improving health in recent decades," Crimmins said.

Different factors may affect disability at different ages. For instance, younger populations may have had an increase in disability because of a greater emphasis on mental health, increased diagnoses of autism spectrum and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorders, and changes in drug use.

The study, "Trends Over 4 Decades in Disability-Free Life Expectancy in the United States," was published online Wednesday in the American Journal of Public Health. Yuan Zhang of the USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology and Yasuhiko Saito, a USC graduate and faculty member at Nihon University, were co-authors.

The study was supported by a grant from the US National Institute on Aging (P30-AG17265) and a Special Research Grant by the Japan Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (H26-Tokubetsu-Shitei-029).

Related Information:

  1. How to Live Longer and Healthier - Leave America - International Living
  2. Average Life Span Expectancy Chart - How Long Will I Live - Disabled World
  3. Women Live Longer but not Better - Duke University Medical Center


Information from our Longevity: Extending Life Span Expectancy section - (Full List).

Submit disability news, coming events, as well as assistive technology product news and reviews.


Loan Information for low income singles, families, seniors and disabled. Includes home, vehicle and personal loans.


Famous People with Disabilities - Well known people with disabilities and conditions who contributed to society.


List of awareness ribbon colors and their meaning. Also see our calendar of awareness dates.


Blood Pressure Chart - What should your blood pressure be, and information on blood group types/compatibility.





  1. Stuttering: Stop Signals in the Brain Prevent Fluent Speech
  2. New Peer-reviewed Journal 'Autism in Adulthood' Launching in 2019
  3. People Want to Live Longer - But Only If in Good Health
  4. Canada's Aging Population Signals Need for More Inclusive, Accessible Transportation System

Citation



Disclaimer: Content on Disabled World is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of a physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. See our Terms of Service for more information.

Reporting Errors: Disabled World is an independent website, your assistance in reporting outdated or inaccurate information is appreciated. If you find an error please let us know.