Young Generation Faces Health Gap

Disparities in health care are widest for those born after 1980

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) For young Americans, the gap in levels of health care has increased substantially. If you were born in the United States after 1980, the health disparity may have grown like never before.

Researchers also say that this gap between the healthiest and least healthy people in the country may become larger over the next decade.

"Take care of your health."

Hui Zheng, assistant professor of sociology at Ohio State University, was the lead author of a study conducted with other researchers at Duke and the University of North Carolina. In the NHI surveys, respondents were asked to rate their own health on a five-point scale. Zheng says that previous data has shown self-reported health to be a reliable indicator, in face better at predicting mortality among the elderly than doctor assessments.

His research team also looked at other factors from the respondents that might affect health, including gender, race, marital status, work status, income and education. They found that late baby boomers, born from 1955 to 1964, reported better health than any other generation.

But for those born since 1980, there was a huge gap in the health ratings between excellent and poor. And self-rated health has declined significantly since the late 1990s.

This health gap has not always been so large, or been growing. Health disparities declined from those born early in the 20th century to the baby boomer generation, before increasing in the post-baby boomer era.

“As young people today reach middle age and preceding cohorts with a smaller health gap die off, we expect health disparities in the whole population to grow even larger,” said Zheng.

Basing their data on the National Health Interview Survey of about 30,000 people per year, for 24 years between 1984 and 2007, the team devised a methodological innovation that provided one of the most comprehensive pictures ever of health disparities in the U.S.

The findings appear in the December issue of the journal American Sociological Review. 

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Review Date: 
December 1, 2011
Last Updated:
December 2, 2011