Posted on Aug 05, 2013, 6 a.m.
A steady rise in life expectancy over the past two decades is accompanied by prolonged health in later life.
People are remaining healthy later in life. David Cutler, from Harvard University (Massachusetts, USA), and colleagues analyzed data collected between 1991 and 2009 from nearly 90,000 individuals who responded to the Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey (MCBS), allowing researchers to link survey responses to participants' Medicare records for the rest of their life – effectively enabling a determination as to exactly how far participants were from death when they answered the survey. "With the exception of the year or two just before death, people are healthier than they used to be," observes the lead investigator, elaborating that: "Effectively, the period of time in which we're in poor health is being compressed until just before the end of life. So 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. …People are much better educated about their health now."
David Cutler, Kaushik Ghosh, Mary Beth Landrum. "Evidence for Significant Compression of Morbidity in the Elderly U.S. Population," Discoveries in the Economics of Aging. National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc., 2013.