Not only are Americans living longer, but they’re also enjoying better health in old age, according to a new Harvard study. The researchers analyzed data from nearly 90,000 Medicare beneficiaries, collected over an 18-year period.
"With the exception of the year or two just before death, people are healthier than they used to be," study author David Cutler, PhD, reported in a statement. "Effectively, the period of time in which we're in poor health is being compressed until just before the end of life.”
The study linked participants’ responses to surveys about how well they were able to take care of themselves to their Medicare records. This enabled the team to work backwards from the date of participants’ deaths and calculate how healthy they were in prior years, based on such criteria as their ability to cook, clean, walk, and manage their money.
“Where we used to see people who are very, very sick for the final six or seven years of their life, that's now far less common,” adds Cutler. “People are living to older ages and we are adding healthy years, not debilitated ones."
Another ongoing Harvard study, launched in 1938, has been following 268 Harvard students who were sophomores at the start of the study and 456 inner-city Boston men of similar age over their lifetimes, using questionnaires, face-to-face interviews, physical exams, and family histories to evaluate their health and emotional well-being. Nearly 200 of the participants, now in their 80s and 90s, are still alive.
Originally called the Harvard Grant Study—and later renamed the Study of Adult Development, the research has yielded a variety of insights about longevity and happiness. The findings include these:
Get the information you need to improve your health and wellness on Healthline.com.
What is glaucoma? Glaucoma is a term for several eye conditions that can damage your optic nerve.
History of Type 2 Diabetes. Recognized by the ancient Egyptians as early as 1550 BCE, this disease has been with us for centuries.
About Rheumatoid Arthritis. If you suspect you suffer from rheumatoid arthritis, get the information you need to know.
Types of Multiple Sclerosis. Could you or a loved one be affected by one of the four types of multiple sclerosis?
Symptoms and Stages of Lung Cancer. It's the leading cause of cancer death in America, but it's also one of the easiest to prevent.