“Dimensions of Health in the Elderly Population” is the latest NBER paper by David Cutler and Mary Beth Landrum. In it they illustrate, and then analyze, trends in measures of disability in the over-65 US population, delivering some nice charts, including these:
The reason for the improvement in health is complex. On the one hand, the health improvement is not a result of sample or demographic changes. Younger people are healthier than younger people used to be, but the same is true of older people. Rather, health is improving because individual health deteriorates less rapidly now than in the past. We do not know exactly why this occurs, but we show that the average trend masks significant heterogeneity. Even as health deteriorates overall as people age, health is improving for a significant minority of people.
You might not recognize it, amid all the doom in gloom about the US health system, but this is good news. Permit a moment of joy. … Nice, huh? OK, snap out of it. Back to work!