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A Profile of Older Americans: 2008

Health and Health Care

In 2007, 39.0% of noninstitutionalized older persons assessed their heath as excellent or very good (compared to 64.8% for persons aged 18-64). There was little difference between the sexes on this measure, but African-Americans** (23.7%), older American Indians/Alaska Natives (24.3%) and older Hispanics (28.9%) were less likely to rate their health as excellent or very good than were older Whites** (40.4%) or older Asians (34.1%)†. Most older persons have at least one chronic condition and many have multiple conditions. Among the most frequently occurring conditions older persons in 2004-2005 were: hypertension (48%), diagnosed arthritis (47%), all types of heart disease (32%), any cancer (20%), diabetes (16%), and sinusitis (14%).

Almost 67% reported in 2007 that they received an influenza vaccination during the past 12 months and 58% reported that they had ever received a pneumococcal vaccination. About 25% (of persons 60+) report height/weight combinations that place them among the obese. Almost 25% of persons aged 65-74 and 18% of persons 75+ report that they engage in regular leisure-time physical activity. Only 8% reported that they are current smokers and only 5% reported excessive alcohol consumption. Only 2% reported that they had experienced psychological distress during the past 30 days.

In 2006, over 13.1 million persons aged 65 and older were discharged from short stay hospitals. This is a rate of 3,508 for every 10,000 persons aged 65+ which is over three times the comparable rate for persons of all ages (which was 1,169 per 10,000). The average length of stay for persons aged 65+ was 5.5 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 2005: 6.5 office visits for those aged 65-74 and 7.7 office visits for persons over 75 while persons aged 45-65 averaged only 3.9 office visits during that year. In 2007, over 96% 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 2006 older consumers averaged out-of-pocket health care expenditures of $4,631, an increase of 62% since 1996. In contrast, the total population spent considerably less, averaging $2,853 in out-of-pocket costs. Older Americans spent 12.7% of their total expenditures on health, more than twice the proportion spent by all consumers (5.7%). Health costs incurred on average by older consumers in 2006 consisted of $2,770 (60%) for insurance, $859 (18%) for drugs, $844 (18.5%) for medical services, and $159 (3%) for medical supplies.

(Sources: Data releases from the websites of the National Center for Health Statistics (including the Health Data Interactive data warehouse, accessed 12/30/2008); from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and from the Bureau of Labor Statistics website)

† These figures are from 2004-2006 data.

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AoA - Statistics - A Profile of Older Americans 2008 - Health Insurance Coverage