Evidence for Significant Compression of Morbidity In the Elderly U.S. Population

NBER: 8/1/13

The question of whether morbidity is being compressed into the period just before death has been at the center of health debates in the United States for some time. Compression of morbidity would lead to longer life but less rapid medical spending increases than if life extension were accompanied by expanding morbidity. Using nearly 20 years of data from the Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey, we examine how health is changing by time period until death. We show that functional measures of health are improving, and more so the farther away from death the person is surveyed. Disease rates are relatively constant at all times until death. On net, there is strong evidence for compression of morbidity based on measured disability, but less clear evidence based on disease-free survival. Read more