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A Profile of Older Americans: 2010

Health and Health Care

In 2009, 41.6% of noninstitutionalized older persons assessed their heath as excellent or very good (compared to 64.5% for all persons aged 18-64 years). There was little difference between the sexes on this measure, but older African-Americans** (25.1%), older American Indians/Alaska Natives (23.2%) and older Hispanics (28.0%) were less likely to rate their health as excellent or very good than were older Whites** (41.8%) or older Asians (35.2%)†. Most older persons have at least one chronic condition and many have multiple conditions. In 2006-2008, the most frequently occurring conditions among older persons were: hypertension (38%), diagnosed arthritis (50%), all types of heart disease (32%), any cancer (22%), diabetes (18%), and sinusitis (14%).

Almost 67% reported in 2009 that they received an influenza vaccination during the past 12 months and 61% reported that they had ever received a pneumococcal vaccination. About 27% (of persons 60+) report height/weight combinations that place them among the obese. Almost 32% of persons aged 65-74 and 18% of persons 75+ report that they engage in regular leisure-time physical activity. Only 9.5% 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 2007, about 12.9 million persons aged 65 and older were discharged from short stay hospitals. This is a rate of 3,395 for every 10,000 persons aged 65+ which is about three times the comparable rate for persons of all ages (which was 1,149 per 10,000). The average length of stay for persons aged 65+ 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 2007: 7.1 office visits for those aged 65 and over while persons aged 45-65 averaged only 3.7 office visits during that year. In 2009, almost 97% 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 2009 older consumers averaged out-of-pocket health care expenditures of $4,846, an increase of 61% since 1999. In contrast, the total population spent considerably less, averaging $3,126 in out-of-pocket costs. Older Americans spent 12.9% of their total expenditures on health, more than twice the proportion spent by all consumers (6.4%). Health costs incurred on average by older consumers in 2009 consisted of $3,027 (63%) for insurance, $821 (17%) for medical services, $828 (17%) for drugs, and $170 (3.5%) for medical supplies.

† These figures are from 2006-2008 data

(Sources: Data releases from the web sites of the National Center for Health Statistics; and from the Bureau of Labor Statistics web site)

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