Over 80% of older Americans feel good about their health – even though two-thirds have multiple chronic illnesses, survey reveals
- In the 2017 National Health Interview Survey, 82% of adults between ages 65 and 74 rated their health as ‘excellent’, ‘very good’ or ‘good’
- Only 18% rated their health as ‘fair’ or ‘poor’ despite 60% of senior citizens suffering from multiple chronic illnesses
- Health experts say many older adults consider good health to mean remaining socially active and being in satisfied in life
- Good self-rated health has also been shown to reduce the risk of mortality
The majority of older Americans feel good about their health, despite the fact that two-thirds have multiple chronic illnesses, a survey reveals.
Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2017 National Health Interview Survey shows that 82 percent of senior citizens rated their health as ‘excellent’, ‘very good’ or ‘good’.
Only 18 percent described their health as ‘fair’ or ‘poor’.
But according to the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, roughly 60 percent of adults above age 65 are battling at least two chronic conditions.
Such illnesses include heart disease, cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke and Alzheimer’s disease.
Health experts told Kaiser Health News that many older adults consider good health to mean they can remain socially active and be in satisfied in life rather than the state of their physical condition.
Additionally, research has found that there is an association between good self-rated health and lowered risk of mortality, meaning that think you’re health is good may help you live longer.
The 2017 National Health Interview Survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed at 82% of senior citizens rated their health as ‘excellent’, ‘very good’ or ‘good’ (file image)
According to the survey, about 18 percent of adults aged 65 to 74 described their health as excellent, and 32 percent each rated their health as very good or good.
On the other hand, roughly 14 percent said their health was fair and just four percent described their health as poor.
Dr Jason Schnittker, a professor of sociology at the University of Pennsylvania, told Kaiser Health News that many older people expect their health to decline as they age and they just see it as part of the natural aging process.
‘Older people expect some deterioration in health and aren’t thrown off course in the same way when it occurs,’ said Dr Schnittker.
In one 2008 Swiss study, an 86-year-old woman who needed a walking stick to get around said: ‘I may be handicapped, but I can still walk.’
Another disabled man told the researchers that he considered himself to be in good health because ‘as long as you can get to church, as long as you can walk, you can say all’s well.’
Dr Schnittker told Kaiser Health News this doesn’t mean these adults are in denial but rather that they’re adapting to the new limitations of their bodies.
Sometimes just ‘surviving’ is translated as having good health, according to Dr Ellen Idler, a professor of sociology at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia.
The average life expectancy in the US today is 78.69, an increase from 69.77 in 1960, when many of these senior citizens were young adults.
‘People hit their 80s and 90s, look around and feel pretty good about just being alive,’ Dr Idler told Kaiser Health News.
Dr Idler was a co-author of a 1997 review published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior that looked at the link between self-rate health and mortality.
They found that even when adjusting for medical history and risk factors, poor self-rated health was a strong predictor of mortality.
Other studies have since replicated the findings.
Co-author Dr Yael Benyamini, a researcher in the fields of health and aging at Tel Aviv University in Israel told Kaiser Health News that one reason for the association is that people who consider themselves to be healthy to take better care of themselves and, in turn, have longer lifespans.