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50+: Live Better, Longer

Disabilities Sidelining Middle-Age Adults

More Baby Boomers Reporting Mobility Problems, Study Finds
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Arthritis, Diabetes Contribute to Disability continued...

The researchers say the reason for the increase in mobility problems among boomers is not clear, but that many reporting such difficulties also said they had health problems that began when they were in their 30s and 40s.

“Although the overall rate of needing help with personal care among this group remains very low -- less than 2% -- this rise in disability is reason for concern,” Linda Martin, PhD, the study’s lead author and a senior fellow at RAND, says in a news release. “It does not bode well for future trends for the 65 and older population, plus there are substantial personal and societal costs of carrying for people of any age who need help.”

The researchers say the increases in conditions causing disability may reflect real deterioration of health, or perhaps improved awareness of such problems and early diagnosis and treatment.

Also, the researchers say improved medical care has extended the lives of people whose disabilities started early in life, and might not have lived to age 50 in earlier decades.

Though obesity is cited as a major cause of health problems, it was not mentioned as an important cause of limitations by those reporting mobility issues, the researchers say.

“We have this uptick of people in their 50s and early 60s who say they need help with their daily activities of living and we’re not sure why,” Vicki A. Freeman, PhD, a professor at the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan, says in the news release. “But the patterns suggest the need for prevention and early intervention before the age of Medicare eligibility.”

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