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A Profile of Older Americans: 2009

Health and Health Care

In 2008, 39.1% of noninstitutionalized older persons assessed their heath as excellent or very good (compared to 60.7% for all persons aged 18 and older). There was little difference between the sexes on this measure, but older African-Americans** (25.1%), older American Indians/Alaska Natives (23.2%) and older Hispanics (28.0%) were less likely to rate their health as excellent or very good than were older Whites** (41.8%) or older Asians (35.2%) . Most older persons have at least one chronic condition and many have multiple conditions. Among the most frequently occurring conditions older persons in 2005-2007 were: hypertension (41%), diagnosed arthritis (49%), all types of heart disease (31%), any cancer (22%), diabetes (18%), and sinusitis (15%).

Almost 67% reported in 2008 that they received an influenza vaccination during the past 12 months and 60% reported that they had ever received a pneumococcal vaccination. About 27% (of persons 60+) report height/weight combinations that place them among the obese. Almost 26% of persons aged 65-74 and 19% of persons 75+ report that they engage in regular leisure-time physical activity. Only 9% reported that they are current smokers and only 5% reported excessive alcohol consumption. Only 2% reported that they had experienced psychological distress during the past 30 days.

In 2006, over 13.1 million persons aged 65 and older were discharged from short stay hospitals. This is a rate of 3,508 for every 10,000 persons aged 65+ which is over three times the comparable rate for persons of all ages (which was 1,169 per 10,000). The average length of stay for persons aged 65+ was 5.5 days; the comparable rate for persons of all ages was 4.8 days. The average length of stay for older people has decreased by 5 days since 1980. Older persons averaged more office visits with doctors in 2005: 6.5 office visits for those aged 65-74 and 7.7 office visits for persons over 75 while persons aged 45-65 averaged only 3.9 office visits during that year. In 2008, over 96% of older persons reported that they did have a usual place to go for medical care and only 2.4% said that they failed to obtain needed medical care during the previous 12 months due to financial barriers.

In 2008 older consumers averaged out-of-pocket health care expenditures of $4,605, an increase of 57% since 1998. In contrast, the total population spent considerably less, averaging $2,976 in out-of-pocket costs. Older Americans spent 12.5% of their total expenditures on health, more than twice the proportion spent by all consumers (5.9%). Health costs incurred on average by older consumers in 2008 consisted of $2,844 (62%) for insurance, $793 (17%) for medical services, $821 (18%) for drugs, and $145 (3%) for medical supplies.

(Sources: Data releases from the websites of the National Center for Health Statistics; from the and from the Bureau of Labor Statistics website)

† These figures are from 2006-2008 data.

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AoA - Statistics - A Profile of Older Americans 2009 - Health Insurance Coverage