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Living the good life, longer
Date:9/16/2013

The average American today can look forward to over two more years of healthy life than they could just a generation ago, Harvard researchers have found.

By synthesizing the data collected in multiple government-sponsored health surveys conducted over the last 3 decades, Susan Stewart, researcher at the National Bureau of Economic Research, David Cutler, the Otto Eckstein Professor of Applied Economics and Professor in the Harvard Department of Global Health and Population, and Allison Rosen, MD and associate professor of Quantitative Health Sciences at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, were able to measure how the quality-adjusted life expectancy (QALE) of Americans has changed over time. The study's findings are described in a paper published this Thursday in the American Journal of Public Health.

"What we're talking about in this study is not simply life expectancy, but quality-adjusted life expectancy," Stewart explained. "Many studies have measured this in different ways, but this is really the first time we've been able to measure it in the entire U.S. population using such a rich measure over a long period."

For the most part, the news is good the study shows that Americans today are healthier than ever. Across the board, Stewart said, the data show people living longer and reporting fewer symptoms of disease and less impairment in everyday tasks like standing and walking. This was found for all sub-groups examined: Blacks, Whites, females, and males.

There were, however, some worrisome trends.

Problems with walking increased significantly among non-elderly, the study found, and there was an increase in anxiety among young and middle-aged people beginning in 2001.

"Ironically, many of the clearest gains have come at older ages, where people were once disabled by things like vision problems and cardiovascular disease," Cutler said. "Those conditions today are far more treatabl
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Contact: Peter Reuell
preuell@fas.harvard.edu
617-496-8070
Harvard University
Source:Eurekalert

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