Health Risks and Behaviors
Indicator 19: Social Activity
Men and women benefit from social activity at older ages. Those who continue to interact with others tend to be healthier, both physically and mentally, than those who become socially isolated. Interactions with friends and family members can provide emotional and practical support that enable older persons to remain
in the community and reduce the likelihood they will need formal health care services.
majority of persons age 70 or older reported engaging in some form of social
activity in the past two weeks. Interactions with family were the most
common type of interaction reported—92 percent of older persons got
together with a non-coresident family member. A slightly smaller percentage
reported getting together with friends and neighbors (88 percent). Half of
all older persons reported going out to church or temple for services or
percentage reporting social activities declines with age. The percentage
reporting volunteer work in the past year declined from 20 percent among
persons ages 70 to 74 to 7 percent among persons age 85 or older. About
one-third of persons ages 70 to 74 reported attending a movie, sports event,
club, or other group event in the preceding two weeks, while fewer than 14
percent of persons age 85 or older did so. The majority of persons even at
the oldest ages reported some interactions outside the home.
majority of both men and women, approximately two out of three, felt that
there was enough social activity in their lives.
for this indicator can be found in Tables 19a and 19b.
Indicator 20: Sedentary Lifestyle
activity is beneficial for the health of people of all ages, including the older
population. It can reduce the risk of certain chronic diseases, may relieve
symptoms of depression, helps to maintain independent living, and enhances
overall quality of life. Research has shown that even among frail
and very old adults, mobility and functioning can be improved through physical
percentage of older persons who were sedentary declined between 1985 and
1995, from 34 percent to 28 percent among men and from 44 percent to 39
percent among women.
1995, 34 percent of persons age 65 or older had a sedentary lifestyle. Women
were more likely than men to have a sedentary lifestyle.
1995, the most common types of exercise among older Americans were light to
moderate activities such as walking, gardening, and stretching.
for this indicator can be found in Table 20.
Indicator 21: Vaccinations
against influenza and pneumococcal disease are recommended for older Americans,
who are at increased risk for complications from these diseases compared with
younger individuals. Influenza vaccinations are given annually,
while pneumococcal vaccinations are usually given once in a lifetime. The costs
associated with these vaccinations are covered under Medicare Part B.
People 2000, a national effort to improve health through establishing health
objectives and measuring progress, set targets of 60 percent coverage for
both influenza and pneumococcal vaccinations among older Americans.
Between 1989 and 1995, the percentage of non-Hispanic white persons who were
vaccinated against influenza increased from 32 percent to 60 percent. Over
the same period, influenza vaccination rates increased from 18 percent to 40
percent among older non-Hispanic black persons and from 24 percent to 50
percent among older Hispanic persons.
rates also increased for pneumococcal disease, but none of the racial or
ethnic groups have reached the 60 percent target.
the period 1993 to 1995, the level of vaccination for both influenza and
pneumococcal disease was similar among older women and men. Persons ages 75
to 84 had slightly higher levels of vaccination coverage than persons ages
65 to 74 and persons age 85 or older.
for this indicator can be found in Tables 21a and 21b.
Indicator 22: Mammography
care services and screenings can help to prevent disease or detect it at an
early, treatable stage. Mammography has been shown to be effective in reducing
breast cancer mortality among women ages 50 to 65 and some experts recommend
screenings at older ages as well.
women age 65 or older, the percentage who had a mammogram within the
preceding two years increased from 23 percent in 1987 to 55 percent in 1994.
The percentage of women who had a mammogram increased among all
racial and ethnic groups. Until recently, non-Hispanic white women were the most
likely to report having had a mammogram, but in 1994 non-Hispanic black women
were more likely to report having had a mammogram (61 percent) than either
non-Hispanic white women (55 percent) or Hispanic women (48 percent).
for this indicator can be found in Table 22.
Indicator 23: Dietary Quality
quality plays a major role in preventing or delaying the onset of chronic diseases.
The Healthy Eating Index (HEI) is a summary measure of dietary quality. The HEI
consists of 10 components, each representing a different aspect of a healthful
diet based on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Guide Pyramid and the
Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Scores for each component are given equal
weight and added to calculate an overall HEI score with a maximum value of 100.
An HEI score above 80 indicates a good diet, an HEI score between 51 and 80
signals a diet that needs improvement, and an HEI score below 51 indicates a
were rated “good” for a higher percentage of the population age 65 and
older (21 percent) than for persons ages 45 to 64 (13 percent). Even so, a
majority of older persons reported diets that needed improvement (67
persons living in poverty were more likely to report a poor diet (21
percent) than were older persons living above the poverty level (11
persons’ scores were lowest for the components of the Healthy Eating Index
measuring daily servings of fruit and milk products. Older persons’ scores were best for the components of the index
measuring cholesterol intake and the variety of the diet.
for this indicator can be found in Tables 23a and 23b.
Indicator 24: Criminal Victimization
fear of crime is an important concern among persons of all ages. Although older
persons may be more fearful of violent crime, they are more likely to be victims
of property crime.
crime rates against persons age 65 or older declined from 9 per 1,000 older
persons in 1973 to 3 per 1,000 in 1998.
1998, persons age 65 or older were much less likely to be victims of violent
crimes (3 per 1,000) than were persons ages 12 to 64 (45 per 1,000).
persons in all age groups, most measured crime was property crime. Property
crime rates have fallen in recent decades. Among households headed by older
persons, 88 per 1,000 were victims of property crimes in 1998, down from 205
per 1,000 households in 1973.
headed by persons age 65 or older were much less likely to be victims of
property crime than were households headed by persons under age 65 (88 per
1,000 for older households, compared with 249 per 1,000 for younger
households in 1998).
for this indicator can be found in Table 24.