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A Profile of Older Americans: 2003

Health and Health Care

In 2003, 38.6% of noninstitutionalized older persons assessed their heath as excellent or very good (compared to 66.6% for persons aged 18-64). There was little difference between the sexes on this measure, but older African-Americans (57.7%) and older Hispanics (60.5%) were less likely to rate their health as excellent or good than were older Whites (75.4%).***** Most older persons have at least one chronic condition and many have multiple conditions. Among the most frequently occurring conditions of elderly in 2000-2001 were: hypertension (49.2%), arthritic symptoms (36.1%), all types of heart disease (31.1%), any cancer (20.0), sinusitis (15.1%), and diabetes (15.0).

Almost 67% reported that they received an influenza vaccination during the past 12 months and 55% reported that they had ever received a pneumococcal vaccination. About 22% (of persons 60+) report height/weight combinations that place them among the obese. Over 27% of persons aged 65-74 and 17% of persons 75+ report that they engage in regular leisure-time physical activity. Only 9% reported that they are current smokers and only 4% reported excessive alcohol consumption. Only 2.5% reported that they had experienced psychological distress during the past 30 days.

In 2002, over 12.5 million persons aged 65 and older were discharged from hospitals. This is a rate of 3,549 for every 10,000 persons aged 65+ which is more than three times the comparable rate for persons aged 45-64 (which was 1,121 per 10,000). The average length of stay for persons aged 65+ was 5.8 days; the comparable rate for persons aged 45-64 was 5.0 days. The average length of stay for older people has decreased almost 5 days since 1980. Older persons averaged more office visits with doctors in 2001 – 6.2 for those aged 65-74 and 7.4 for persons over 75 while persons aged 45-65 averaged only 3.8 office visits during that year. Almost 97% of older persons reported that they did have a usual place to go for medical care and only 2.5% said that they failed to obtain needed medical care during the previous 12 months due to financial barriers.

In 2002, older consumers averaged $3,586 in out-of-pocket health care expenditures, an increase of 45% since 1992. In contrast, the total population spent considerably less, averaging $2,350 in out-of-pocket costs. Older Americans spent 12.8%of their total expenditures on health, more than twice the proportion spent by all consumers (5.8%). Health costs incurred on average by older consumers in 2001 consisted of $1,886 (53%) for insurance, $955 (27%) for drugs, $582 (16%) for medical services, and $163 (5%) for medical supplies.

(Sources: Health United States: 2003; Advanced Data From Vital and Health Statistics and other data releases from the National Center for Health Statistics website; and the Bureau of Labor Statistics website)


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