Americans Living Longer, Healthier Lives: Study

HealthDay: JULY 29, 2013

Most seniors are doing well until the last year or two of life, researchers report

MONDAY, July 29 (HealthDay News) — Not only has Americans’ life expectancy increased in recent decades, they also are healthier later in life, a new study shows.

“With the exception of the year or two just before death, people are healthier than they used to be,” study author David Cutler, a professor of applied economics at Harvard University, said in a university news release.

“Effectively, the period of time in which we’re in poor health is being compressed until just before the end of life,” Cutler said. “Where we used to see people who are very, very sick for the final six or seven years of their life, that’s now far less common. People are living to older ages and we are adding healthy years, not debilitated ones.”

In this study, Cutler and his colleagues analyzed health data collected from nearly 90,000 Medicare beneficiaries between 1991 and 2009. They compared this data with survey responses on how well the people were able to care for themselves — whether they were able to cook, clean, bathe, dress, walk and manage money — to determine how healthy the people were in relation to how close they were to dying. Read more