Report: Don't entrust healthcare savings to patients older than 40

NEW YORK — Those older than 40 years may be making a negative impact on the future of the U.S. economy with the way they eat, live and keep track of their health, according to a white paper released Wednesday by the MetLife Mature Market Institute and co-authored by the Center for Healthy Aging. 

According to the "On the Critical List?: A MetLife Report on the Health Status of the 40+ Population," Gen Xers are treating diseases as they emerge as opposed to focusing on health and wellness. Overall, as many as 27.1% of American adults between the ages of 50 years and 64 years are sedentary, defined as not doing any physical activity outside of work for 30 days. 

Across the total population, the number of Americans considered obese reaches as high as 66 million. And it's that prevalence of obesity that has a direct correlation to rising healthcare costs.

The authors estimated that expenditures associated with obesity increased by about $1,723 per year per capita. "Those dollars, for the most part, go to treating all of the chronic diseases that obesity is associated with and not just direct treatment for obesity," the authors wrote. "This estimate means that the annual medical burden of obesity is nearly 8.5% of total annual Medicare expenditures." 

Of the chronic diseases associated with obesity, approximately 9% of the population has diabetes and 30.8% has high blood pressure, a primary risk for cardiovascular disease.

And while it has been reported that the prevalence of disability has decreased for those older than 65 years, that's not the case for those oolder than 40 years. "Data from the National Health Interview Survey found that between 2000 and 2010, the percentage of adults ages 45 years to 64 years with two or more of nine selected chronic conditions increased for men and women, all racial and ethnic groups examined and most income groups," the authors noted. "The percentage of these chronically ill adults who did not receive or delayed medical care due to cost increased from 17% to 23%, and the percentage who did not receive needed prescription drugs due to cost increased from 14% to 22%. 

“A lifetime perspective is essential to preserving the health of generations of Americans,” stated Sandra Timmermann, director of the MetLife Mature Market Institute. “For example, a decline in chronic disease would reduce the prevalence of disability and lead to declines in associated medical expenditures per year. In the workplace, employers can play an important role by promoting good health behaviors through wellness programs.”

Employers with worksite wellness programs were better capable of becoming that change agent, the report noted. Forming partnerships between consumers, employers, health plans and healthcare organizations will stimulate improved quality, lower costs and increase productivity in the workplace," the authors concluded.

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