September 13, 2013
Americans Living Longer, Happier Lives Than Ever Before
[ Watch the Video: American Wise Up To Healthy Living ]
Michael Harper for redOrbit.com - Your Universe OnlineThanks to new advancements in medical technology, new prescriptions and improved health care, the average American baby born into this world will spend more time here than their parents. Even these parents have longer and more active lives to look forward to than their parents had.
A study which compiled data from over two decades has found American babies born in this world can expect to live 3.8 years longer than those born two decades earlier. Furthermore, the average 25-year old is expected to live 2.4 years longer than previous generations. Even those aged 65 have gained some years on previous generations and can expect to live an average of 1.7 years longer.
Researchers from the University of Massachusetts Medical School (UMMS) and Harvard University have completed a study which indicates that Americans aren’t just living longer, but that they are living healthier and more active lives thanks to advancements in modern medicine. This was the first time the quality-adjusted life expectancy (QALE) for the average American had been calculated at this scale.
According to Allison Rosen, MD, associate professor of quantitative health sciences at UMMS, QALE is a good metric for measuring both longevity and the overall happiness of American citizens over time. QALE tells us more than how long a person can expect to live," explained Dr. Rosen in a statement. The study is now published in the American Journal of Public Health.
“It tells us what the relative quality of those added years are in terms of physical, emotional and mental well-being. Though many studies have measured this in different ways, this is really the first time we’ve been able to capture this type of information across the whole U.S. population over an extended period.”
Citizens in every demographic are benefitting from these improvements in modern medicine say the researchers, though they did note some trends which caused them concern. For instance, they say that while we’re becoming a healthier society overall, we’re also becoming more likely to experience anxiety. Dr. Rosen and team say they noticed this rise in anxiety began around 2001.
Additionally, there’s also been a trend in non-elderly Americans who have difficulty walking. Yet even with these disturbing trends, the researchers say today’s health care system is capable of treating these individuals, particularly the elderly.
“Those conditions today are far more treatable than they were in the past, so what we’re left with at the very oldest ages are things like Alzheimer’s and dementia, while at younger ages we’re seeing problems that appear to be related to a sedentary lifestyle,” said David Cutler, a professor with Harvard’s Department of Global Health and Population.
Researchers have looked at data before to understand and make projections about overall life expectancy. What makes this new study different, says Dr. Rosen, is that it considers an overall state of well being. Elements such as physical well-being, mental health and emotional well-being were considered in this study to help paint a broader picture of average Americans as they age.
We might be living longer, but Dr. Rosen and professor Cutler wanted to understand if we were enjoying those extra years that medical science is affording us. This data can also act as a yard stick with which to measure the American health care system as it heads into the changes of the Affordable Care Act.
“It’s laying the foundation for allowing us to determine how to get more of what we want from the health care system,” Cutler said. "It gives us a window into something we were never able to see - until now."