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A Profile of Older Americans: 2012

Health and Health Care

In 2012, 44% of noninstitutionalized older persons assessed their health as excellent or very good (compared to 64% for persons aged 18-64 years). There was little difference between the sexes on this measure, but older African-Americans (not Hispanic) (25.8%), older American Indians/Alaska Natives (29%), older Asians (33%), and older Hispanics (29.7%) were less likely to rate their health as excellent or very good than were older Whites (not Hispanic) (44.7%). Most older persons have at least one chronic condition and many have multiple conditions. In 2009-2011, the most frequently occurring conditions among older persons were: diagnosed arthritis (51%), all types of heart disease (31%), any cancer (24%), diagnosed diabetes (20% in 2007-2010), and hypertension (high blood pressure or taking antihypertensive medication) (72 percent in 2007-2010).

In 2012, 68% of people age 65 and over reported that they received an influenza vaccination during the past 12 months and 60% reported that they had ever received a pneumococcal vaccination. About 28% (of persons 60+) reported height/weight combinations that placed them among the obese. Almost 45% of persons aged 65-74 and 29% of persons 75+ reported that they engaged in regular leisure-time physical activity. Only 9% reported that they are current smokers and 6% reported excessive alcohol consumption. Only 2% reported that they had experienced psychological distress during the past 30 days.

In 2010, about 13.6 million persons aged 65 and older were discharged from short stay hospitals. This is a rate of 3,326.4 for every 10,000 persons aged 65+ which is about three times the comparable rate for persons of all ages (which was 1,102 per 10,000). The average length of stay for persons aged 65-74 was 5.4 days; for ages 75-84 it was 5.7 days; and for ages 85 and over it was 5.6 days. The comparable rate for persons of all ages was 4.8 days. The average length of stay for older people has decreased by 5 days since 1980. Older persons averaged more office visits with doctors in 2011. Among people age 75 and over, 21 percent had 10 or more visits to a doctor or other health care professional in the past 12 months compared to 14 percent among people age 45 to 64. In 2012, almost 96% of older persons reported that they did have a usual place to go for medical care and only 2.4% said that they failed to obtain needed medical care during the previous 12 months due to financial barriers.

In 2011 older consumers averaged out-of-pocket health care expenditures of $4,769, an increase of 46% since 2000. In contrast, the total population spent considerably less, averaging $3,313 in out-of-pocket costs. Older Americans spent 12.2% of their total expenditures on health, almost twice the proportion spent by all consumers (6.7%). Health costs incurred on average by older consumers in 2011 consisted of $3,076 (64%) for insurance, $786 (16%) for medical services, $714 (15%) for drugs, and $193 (4.0%) for medical supplies.

(Based on online data from the National Center for Health Statistics’ 1) Health Data Interactive data warehouse; and 2) Early Release of Selected Estimates Based on Data From the January–September 2012 National Health Interview Survey. The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Expenditure Survey.)

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