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A Profile of Older Americans: 2005

Health and Health Care

In 2004, 36.7% of noninstitutionalized older persons assessed their heath as excellent or very good (compared to 66.0% for persons aged 18-64). There was little difference between the sexes on this measure, but African-Americans** (25.1%), older American Indians/Alaska Natives (28.2%) and older Hispanics (28.6%) were less likely to rate their health as excellent or good than were older Whites** (39.6%) or older Asians (34.6%).**** Most older persons have at least one chronic condition and many have multiple conditions. Among the most frequently occurring conditions of elderly in 2002-2003 were: hypertension (51%), diagnosed arthritis (48%), all types of heart disease (31%), any cancer (21%), diabetes (16.0), and sinusitis (14%).

Almost 65% reported in 2004 that they received an influenza vaccination during the past 12 months and 57% reported that they had ever received a pneumococcal vaccination. About 24% (of persons 60+) report height/weight combinations that place them among the obese. Over 27% of persons aged 65-74 and 16% 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 2.2% reported that they had experienced psychological distress during the past 30 days.

In 2003, over 13.2 million persons aged 65 and older were discharged from short stay hospitals. This is a rate of 3,679 for every 10,000 persons aged 65+ which is more than three times the comparable rate for persons of all ages (which was 1,195 per 10,000). The average length of stay for persons aged 65+ was 5.8 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 2003 – 5.9 for those aged 65-74 and 7.5 for persons over 75 while persons aged 45-65 averaged only 3.8 office visits during that year. Almost 96% of older persons reported that they did have a usual place to go for medical care and only 2.6% said that they failed to obtain needed medical care during the previous 12 months due to financial barriers.

In 2003, older consumers averaged $3,899 in out-of-pocket health care expenditures, an increase of 46% since 1993. In contrast, the total population spent considerably less, averaging $2,574 in out-of-pocket costs. Older Americans spent 12.5%of their total expenditures on health, more than twice the proportion spent by all consumers (5.9%). Health costs incurred on average by older consumers in 2003 consisted of $2,142 (55%) for insurance, $920 (24%) for drugs, $678 (17%) for medical services, and $158 (4%) for medical supplies.

(Sources: Advanced Data From Vital and Health Statistics and other data releases from the National Center for Health Statistics website including the Data Warehouse on Trends in Health and Aging; and the Bureau of Labor Statistics website)


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