Baby boomers are the generation that embodies resilience. The post-World War II influx of little ones was a reminder to the country that we would keep going and keep thriving.
The sheer number of babies born during the boom period—about 78 million—solidifies its reputation as a generation to be reckoned with. We've also historically been in awe of boomers' excellent overall health. But new research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association questions whether baby boomers really are “The Healthiest Generation.”
Using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, we can see that baby boomers are not only suffering from declining health in certain areas, but that they generally have a lower opinion of their own health status as compared to previous generations.
“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,” the study reported.
Fortunately, boomers have acquired some better habits, especially when it comes to smoking. This is likely due to new information and to the stigma surrounding smoking that the boomer generation is attuned to.
“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,” the report states.
Why Is The Health of Boomers in Decline?
Many social and economic factors have made life challenging for this generation. Instead of relaxing with family and friends as retirement nears, more and more boomers have to worry about finding the funds to kick back on a sunny beach, or even in a modest home.
Stresses come with ongoing employment and taking care of other loved ones struggling in a difficult economic climate. Substance abuse is also under-reported among older-generation addicts.
This is not to say that boomers are destined to live out the rest of their years unhappily. By targeting the ailments, poor health decisions, and societal factors that affect boomers most, we can better help them reach their dream retirements.
Their generation revolutionized our culture and politics. But now the focus should shift toward personal care and attention. After giving so much to others, they deserve it.
What Can I Do as a Baby Boomer to Stay Healthy?
- Be mindful of what your body is telling you. Don’t dismiss lapses in memory or ability as just a side effect of aging. You might need better sleep, or your body might be alerting you to more serious health issues, such as osteoarthritis.
- Also pay attention to your mental health. Talk to friends, family, and mental health professionals about maintaining your peace of mind. Try incorporating yoga or meditation into your daily life.
- Be honest about what you need from others, as well. If you need a break from your hectic routine in order to slow down and be in the moment, make that clear to those around you.
- Do what you can. You likely have a lot of pressure coming from many different directions, so learn to prioritize.
- You already know to cut out cigarettes, alcohol, and illicit drugs, but focus on reclaiming your good health one day at a time. Make your favorite healthy meal or take a scenic walk. Better health is always within reach.
How Can I Help a Baby Boomer in My Life?
- Be there for your baby boomer in whatever way he or she needs it most, and ask what would be helpful. Does your baby boomer need someone to talk to? Someone to get groceries? Do what you can to make your boomer’s life easier.
- Get healthier together. If you or your boomer needs some motivation to hit the gym or the yoga mat, there’s no better way than to get in shape simultaneously.
- If you're concerned about local or national policies affecting the baby boomers close to you, contact your legislators and let them know their impact on the lives of your loved ones.
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