, Volume 47, Supplement 1, pp S17–S40 | Cite as

Trends in health of older adults in the United States: Past, present, future

  • Linda G. MartinEmail author
  • Robert F. Schoeni
  • Patricia M. Andreski


The decline in late-life disability prevalence in the United States was one of the most important developments in the well-being of older Americans in the 1980s and 1990s, but there is no guarantee that it will continue into the future. We review the past literature on trends in disability and other health indicators and then estimate the most recent trends in biomarkers and limitations for both the population aged 65 and older and those aged 40 to 64, the future elderly. We then investigate the extent to which trends in education, smoking, and obesity can account for recent trends in limitations and discuss how these three factors might influence future prospects for late-life health. We find that improvements in the health of the older population generally have continued into the first decade of the twenty-first century. The recent increase in the proportion of the younger population needing help with activities of daily living is concerning, as is the doubling of obesity in the last few decades. However, the increase in obesity has recently paused, and favorable trends in education and smoking are encouraging.


Current Population Survey National Health Interview Survey Older Adult High Total Cholesterol National Health Interview Survey Data 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Population Association of America 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Linda G. Martin
    • 1
    Email author
  • Robert F. Schoeni
    • 2
  • Patricia M. Andreski
    • 2
  1. 1.RAND Corporation and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public HealthUSA
  2. 2.Institute for Social ResearchUniversity of MichiganUSA

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