by Julian Ferguson, ECF, 26/3/2013
Photo Credit: Mallinaltzin
A recent US study has found that ‘Baby Boomers’ are in worse health than their parents. With similar trends seen in Europe, ECF’s health policy officer, Dr. Randy Rzewnicki explains why we need more people cycling
Europe’s millions of Baby Boomers – those born between 1946 and 1964 – are getting older, grayer and increasingly unhealthy. Despite having a reputation of being the healthiest and most active generation, they are actually in worse overall health than the previous generation, according to a new study. Researchers from the West Virginia University School of Medicine analysed data from US public health surveys between 1988-1994 & 2007-2010, focusing on respondents who were 46-64 years old during either period. The two groups were tallied up on different aspects such as healthy lifestyles and chronic diseases.
“What they found was that in the Baby Boom generation in the USA obesity is 10% higher than the previous generation. Diabetes is up 3.5% (from 12% to 15.5% – a huge increase). Hypertension is up from 36 to 43%,” explains Randy Rzewnicki.
He adds: “High cholesterol problems rose from 34% of the population, to 74% in the Baby-Boom generation.”
Rzewnicki pins the rise in health problems in part due to a ‘pharmaceutical culture’ where people seek treatment rather than improving their lifestyle.
“As we say at ECF, whatever the problem, cycling is always part of the solution. And for this problem, it’s very clearly the case,” says Randy Rzewnicki.
A case for more cycling?
The study found that 52% of the Baby Boomers reported doing no regular exercise, versus 17% for the previous generation. Only 35% reported doing exercise at least 12 times per month in the Baby-Boom generation versus 50% for their parents’ generation.
“This is very important because regular physical activity is part of the solution. In fact it’s key to preventing all of the medical problems that are reported here. Cycling and walking for transport are some of the very best ways to get your daily dose of activity.”
Rzewnicki continues: “This is because you build it into your daily routine, and you don’t have to set aside separate time for it, like you do if you go to yoga class, or the gym, or fitness, or dancing, etc.”
According to the National Association of Baby Boomers, baby boomers represent some 75 million people in the United States. As well as being the largest group of consumers in the US, they are also tipped to be the largest health care users.
Similar situation in Europe
“We need to be aware that things are very similar here in Europe. The post war Baby-Boom happened here too. And the disease burden of so-called modern life is also similar. As far as I know, we do not have the kind of data for the EU that Dana King and his team had for USA, but we certainly are facing the same general circumstances as they reported.”
With physical inactivity costing Europe up to €150 billion each year, perhaps it’s time for doctors start writing a prescription for more cycling.
A copy of the study can be accessed here.
Dana E. King et al. The Status of Baby Boomers’ Health in the United States: The Healthiest Generation?
. JAMA Internal Medicine, 2013
For more information on ECF’s work on health see this page