Trends in the Health of the Older Population: Disability versus Biomarkers of Health Risks

Eileen Crimmins, University of Southern California
Dawn Alley, University of Southern California
Sandra L. Reynolds, University of South Florida
Melanie Johnston, University of Southern California

Health among the older population as measured by most indicators has improved over the last two decades. Mortality has continued to decline, while disability and functioning loss are less prevalent than in the past. The prevalence of many diseases, however, has not declined, as people survive longer with disease. In this study, we use two waves of the NHANES (III and IV) to examine whether time trends in biomarkers for good health indicate the same improvement in health that has been observed using disability. Biomarkers examined include systolic and diastolic blood pressure, cholesterol levels, signs of compromised endocrine function, and signs of inflammatory responses. Among our findings, there is conflicting evidence of change between the early and late 1990s, with improvements in diastolic blood pressure, pulse, HDL and LDL cholesterol, and others. We find deterioration in systolic blood pressure and body mass index.

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Presented in Session 111: Demography of Disability